Avani Lekhara, girl who created history by winning Gold

At just 19, Lekhara has become the first-ever Indian girl to have won a Gold medal at the Paralympics.

Avani Lekhara in a file photo. (Credits: Olympics.com)
By Aaryanshi Mohan | Aug 30, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Age is just a number, and skills are timeless, if this was a saying then Avani Lekhara would be the live example of such a feat. At just 19, Lekhara has become the first-ever Indian girl to have won a Gold medal at the Paralympics. In the quadrennial event, the 19-year old participated in the SH1 event and was making her debut in the Paralympics.

 The 19-year-old won the Gold medal after scoring a total of 249.6, equalling the current world record. She further made history by breaking/creating four unique records of her own. These records are testimony that she is destined for greatness, and has achieved it. Not only is she the first ever Indian women to win a gold at Paralympics/Olympics, she also he created a new Paralympic record and equalled the World Record with score of 249.6Youngest Indian Paralympic Medalist. Adding to her list of achievements is the fact that she’s won the first ever Gold in shooting for India in Paralympics.

Avani’s 249.6 marks the highest score ever recorded in shooting in the prestigious ongoing event, showcasing her brilliance when it mattered the most.

What is more inspirational is the fact that Lekhara is only the fourth ever Indian to have won a Gold medal at the Paralympics, after Murlikant Petkar (swimming), Devendra Jhajharia (javelin throw), and Mariyappan Thangavelu (javelin throw).

Lekhara is the first Indian to win a medal in shooting at the Paralympics. She’s also only the third Indian woman to medal at the Paralympics. She comes in after Deepa Malik (shot put, 2016) and Bhavinaben Patel (table tennis), who both won silver.

Huge change in life for Avani Lekhara

Lekhara was just ten years old when she was faced with a car acccident that happened to be life altering for her. The accident led to a spinal cord injury that left her wheelchair dependent. It was almst as if life had stopped for her. However, when things are destined, hard work and will always accompany. Two instances in her changed the way she looked at life. Her father’s constant encouragement led her to try for shooting and archery as sports, and it was after she read Abhinav Bindra’s A Shot at History that she finally took up shooting, and etched history in Gold.

Encouraged by her father, Lekhara decided to take up shooting and archery but she was focused a lot more on shooting after knowing about the feats of Bindra. However, in preparation for the Tokyo Paralympics, she faced a massive problem. With the coronavirus lockdown, it became difficult for Lekhara to get a physio to prepare her for the Games.

“I can’t describe this feeling, I’m feeling like I’m on top of the world. It’s unexplainable,” Avani Lekhara said.

“I’m so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there’s a lot of medals more to come. I was just saying one thing, that I have to take one shot at a time. There’s nothing else that matters now, just take one shot at a time and just finish it.

“I just think that I have to follow the process. Beyond that, I try not to think about the score or the medal tally,” Lekhara said after the final.

Speaking to ESPN at that time, Lekhara highlighted the problems before the lockdown. A physio would come and give her the exercise on her legs as she was paralyzed from the waist down. Now, with her physio gone, her parents stepped up. They ensured that the exercises were done to the best of their knowledge. The aspect of social distancing created a weird conundrum for Paralympians. They had to have people around them for help but social distancing stopped it. Lekhara did not take a medical caregiverduring COVID-19.

Sensational performance in final

Avani Lekhara kicked off the final with a sensational performance, ensuring a spot at the top with the event heading into the elimination stages. As the face-off progressed down to the top five, the 19-year-old showcased impressive resolve to hold a lead looking in superb shape for more than just a podium finish. Avani displayed supreme determination as the event moved on to the final stages, sealing the second spot with a handy lead.

The 19-year-old had already delivered a sensational performance till that stage, but amped it up further when it mattered the most, equalling the world record with a score of 249.6 to win a historic Paralympic gold medal. It marked a superb turnaround from the shooter who had barely qualified for the final after finishing seventh, with a total score of 621.7.

“For me, there can be no greater happiness than this. This is the result of her hard work. I hope she brings a gold medal in 50m shooting also,” said her grandfather GR Lekhara as quoted by ANI.

China’s Zhang Cuiping clinched the silver with a total score of 248.9, while Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine won the bronze scoring 227.5.