2023 certainly has been the Year of Women’s Sport, and one of the reasons why is the sheer number of World Cup participation opportunities for South African women in sport, both those our country was honoured and excited to host, but also those on distant shores where our girls and women athletes rose to take up the challenge to represent the country with pride.
One of those girls is 16-year old Bhavna Heeralal, who leaped at the opportunity to tell her story at the 2023 Table Tennis World Cup in South Africa. Read her inspiring words:
Bhavna, why and how do you set goals?
When I set goals in my sport, I make sure I fulfil them no matter how small or big it is. I also make sure the goal does not affect my schooling goals because what’s the most important thing to me is my education, I will do nothing to put it on the line “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Not fulfilling goals can be a major setback in your career, that’s why you must always set realistic goals for yourself and once you complete them set more and more until you are where you want to be in life. And, even then, still set more and then more, because not having goals means you are walking around aimlessly.
Setting goals and completing it gives you a sense of accomplishment, and that feeling will make you want to set more, so don’t ever think once you have completed your goal you won’t want to set more. If you are feeling unmotivated, set more goals and push yourself, because it will all be worth it, once you have reached the top.
Why should girls and women in South Africa participate in sport?
I’m the type of teammate who likes to give inspirational talks to the team before a game or at least try to be inspirational but the one thing I always say to my teammates is that, “if you’re not doing it for yourself, do it for the women of South Africa”.
For me, travelling with the national team has been a dream come true, the friendships I have made with players from other countries are so strong, the places we have been to and the countries are so beautiful, and I’m so grateful that I was born in this generation, where women are encouraged to play sports, and most teams are funded to play, because I can’t image how female athletes in South Africa felt fifty years ago when they were not allowed to play.
It’s for those athletes that we have to make the most of it, do the most for our country and win medals, because they did not get a chance to, not even a chance to try.
What has it meant to South African women in sport to participate in so many World Cups this year?
To see our women’s national soccer team in the World Cup was the epitome of inspiring. Our women were sent out there to do their best and did nothing less of it, no matter that they lost, they went down fighting, they played like their life depended on it and came back home heroes.
South Africa hosted multiple World Cups this year 2023 and for everyone we participated in, we had a women’s team and, again, although we did not win, we got much well-deserved attention from the world, and that attention grew the women’s sports industry in our country.
For the first time in a long time, girls saw other girls on the big screen playing sports and representing their country, that gives girls the hope of one day doing the same.
What has success as a Table Tennis player done for you?
For me, when I adorn the green and gold jersey for our country in table tennis, it is the biggest honour, and I don’t take it lightly because I know how important it is to keep our country’s flag up high so, no matter the country we play, I will always give it my best and never give up, no matter the score.
I will fight till the last point, and make sure I do my best, because, for me, once I put the green and gold jersey on, I’m not playing for just myself anymore but for my whole country, I am playing to make my country proud.
I’m playing so that one day a little boy or girl will go to school and say, ‘The South African women beat China last night’, or ‘South Africa won The World Championships’. I want our South African athletes to know that, just because it has not been done before, it does not mean it can’t be done!
Main Photo Caption: 16-year old table tennis star Bhavna Heeralal believes that girls and women in South Africa should participate in sport, because it helps them to stay fit and healthy, to build self-esteem and confidence, and to learn important life skills such as teamwork and perseverance. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: What is great about Table Tennis? I love the challenge of it. It is a very fast-paced and exciting sport, and it requires a lot of skill and coordination. I also enjoy the social aspect of the sport, and I have made many friends through Table Tennis. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: ‘For me, when I adorn the green and gold jersey for our country in table tennis, it is the biggest honour. I know how important it is to keep our country’s flag up high, and I will always give it my best and never give up, no matter the score. Photo: Supplied