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The Story of Avani Lekhara: First Indian Woman to Win a Gold Medal at the Paralympics

At Monday’s R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event in Tokyo, she shot her way to the top of the podium finishing with a world record.

Avani Lekhara
Source: Twitter

Indian women are creating history at this year’s Tokyo Paralympics 2020. With determination, hard work, and perseverance, 19-year-old Avani Lekhara scripted history at the Tokyo Paralympics by being the first Indian woman to bring the gold medal home. The national anthem was played at the stadium making the entire nation immensely proud of Lekhara. Her never-giving-up spirit is what took her to such heights even after life gave her so many difficulties. 

At Monday’s R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event in Tokyo, she shot her way to the top of the podium finishing with a world record-equaling total of 249.6, which is also a new Paralympic record. After reading the autobiography of Olympic gold medalist shooter Abhinav Bindra, A shot at history, Avani began shooting. She matched Bindra’s famous Beijing 2008 moment when she won India’s first-ever Paralympic gold in shooting in 2021 creating an inspirational moment. 

After swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004 and 2016), and high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, she is the fourth Indian athlete to win a Paralympic gold (2016). The adolescent claims to have a special bond with the rifle and believes in the process, which has helped her succeed in the psychologically demanding sport of shooting.

Background and Early Years

After an injury, while she was just 11 years old in 2012, Avani Lekhara was confined to a wheelchair. At a very young age, Avani had to face the cruelties of life. She was paralyzed below the waist after sustaining spinal cord injuries in the car accident. Avani had spine surgery, but physicians said there was no way to repair traumatic paraplegia. Praveen Lekhara, her father, is a top Rajasthan administrative official, and Shweta, her mother, is also an officer. 

She was required to stay at home for two years. Then she was accepted into a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Jaipur, and her life began to return to normal. Her father introduced her to a shooting range during a summer vacation in 2015, and she began shooting as a hobby. She began shooting at the Jagat Pura Sports Complex in Jaipur, had instruction in both Jaipur and Delhi, and maintained her practice at home while in lockdown. Aside from shooting, the adolescent is studying law at the University of Rajasthan for five years. She graduated from Jaipur’s Kendriya Vidyalaya and was one of the school’s best students.

Avani Lekhara’s Achievements at a Glance

Her first achievement was in July 2015 when she won a gold medal at State level competition and from there on, she never stopped. Since 2017, Lekhara has been backed by the Indian government, who has included her in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) as well as supporting her preparation through the Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC). Here’s a list of her achievements from then on.

  • World Rank 5 in R2 and 6 in R8
  • Silver medal in R2 at the WSPS World Cup Al Ain in 2021
  • Silver medal in R2 at the WSPS World Cup in Osijek in 2019
  • Silver medal with Junior World Record in R2 at the WSPS World Cup AlAin in 2017
  • Bronze medal in R2 at the WSPS World Cup Bangkok in 2017
  • Gold medals in the 10m Rifle, Prone, and 3P events at the World Shooting Para Sport World Cup, Dubai in 2018
  • 3 Gold medals and a bronze medal in the 63rd National Shooting Championships, Bhopal in 2019
  • 3 Gold medals and one silver medal in the XIX Kumar Surendra Singh Memorial Shooting Championship, New Delhi in 2019

The Tokyo Paralympics 2020

The kid was one of India’s best medal hopes heading into the Tokyo Olympics. On Monday at the Asaka Shooting Range, the 19-year-old also made history by being the first Indian woman to earn a gold medal at the Paralympics, winning the R2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event. She dominated the field from the start of the final and set a new world record with a total of 249.6 points. She’ll also compete in the R3 Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1 event, the R8 Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions SH1 event, and the R6 Mixed 50m Air Rifle prone SH1 event in Tokyo. We wish her all the best for her future endeavors and hope to learn from her resilient spirits.

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Written by Marya

Loves reading, critiquing and writing. Philosophical and poetic with a charm of sarcasm adds to my approach. Dance, cinema and music make to my list of hobbies. Explore and express are the key elements of my life.

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