Tokyo, Aug 27: Paddler Bhavina Patel assured India a historic first Paralympic medal in table tennis while archer Rakesh Kumar produced his personal best score of 699 to be ranked third in men's Individual Compound Open to make it to the pre-quarterfinals as a top medal contender on what turned out to be a very good day for India at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Friday.
Bhavina made history as she stormed into the semifinals of women's singles Class 4 competition and assured India of at least a bronze medal, by upsetting Rio 2016 gold medallist Borislava Peric Rankovic of Serbia in straight games 3-0 (11-5,11-6, 11-7) in just 18 minutes.
Earlier, Bhavina, who became the first Indian para-TT player to reach the pre-quarterfinals when she defeated Megan Shackleton of Great Britain in a Group A match, continued to blaze a historic path as she beat Brazil's Joyce de Oliveira in straight games to reach the quarterfinals.
Bhavani, the 34-year-old first-time Paralympian from Ahmedabad who took up table tennis to maintain fitness during her graduation days, meets China's Zhang Miao, a silver medallist at Rio 2016, on Saturday. If she wins that match, she will play the winner of the other semifinal, an all-Chinese affair between Zhou Ying and Gu Xiaodan. If she loses the semifinal, Bhavina will return home with a bronze medal as both losing semifinalists will get bronze medals from this year.
Even as Bhavina was making history, archer Rakesh Kumar set himself up as one of the favourites in Men's Individual Compound Open section as he qualified third in the ranking round with a score of 699.
Kumar was the best placed among three Indians, as he tallied his personal best score in the 72 arrow ranking round at the Yumenoshima Ranking Field. Shyam Sunder Swami was placed 21st in the men's section while Jyoti Baliyan was ranked 15. Both also made it to the elimination rounds. While Kumar and Swami will aim in the 1/16 elimination round on Saturday, Jyoti's match is scheduled for Sunday.
China's He Zihao was leading after the ranking round with a personal best effort of 705. Kumar finished with 699, the same as Iranians Ramezan Biabani and Alisina Manshaezadeh. Biabani took the second spot ahead of Kumar as he had shot 18 arrows in the inner 10 ring (Xs) as compared to 17 by the Indian and 16 by Manshaezadeh.
Jyoti and Rakesh's combined scores gave India a total of 1370, putting them in sixth place in the Mixed Team competition behind China (1388), Russian Paralympic Committee (1386), Turkey (1378), Iran (1376), and Great Britain (1376). India will take on Thailand in the mixed team pre-quarterfinals.
In the recurve section, India's best hope Harvinder Singh could not come up with his best performance and be ranked 21st with a score of 600. Fellow Indian Vivek Chikara was in a far better position at 10th position with a score of 609 as Iran's Rahimi Gholamreza led the way with a score of 644, a Paralympic Games record.
Both Singh and Chikara made it to the elimination rounds that will take place on September 3.
It was tough luck for women's Powerlifter Sakina Khatun, who finished fifth in the 50kg class with a best bench press of 93kg. Jai Deep, who participated in the men's 65kg category, finished out of the top seven, committing fouls on all his three attempts -- twice at 160kg and then at 167 kg in his last desperate try.
There was setback for India in athletics too as Tek Chand, who was flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on August 24, finished eighth and last in the men's shot put F55 category with a throw of 9.04 metres, his season's best effort in the seated shot put section. Brazil's Wallace Santos set a new world record by heaving the iron ball to 12.63 metres to take the gold. Bulgaria's Ruzhdi Ruzhdi, who held the previous record of 12/47 metres, took silver with an effort of 12.23 metres.