Avani Lekhara - Gold medalist, world record holder who is an inspiration for India

Avani Lekhara became the first Indian woman to win a gold in the Paralympics as she secured the top prize in shooting in Tokyo 2020.

Avani Lekhara is one of the first woman gold medal winners in the history of the Paralympics. (Image credit: Twitter)

In the history of shooting in India, Abhinav Bindra became the gold standard when he won the gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 10m air rifle event. 13 years later, in the Tokyo Paralympics 2021 event, another shooter has given India gold in the rifle event. Avani Lekhara, the 19-year-old from Jaipur has created history by winning the gold medal in the Para Rifle Shooting event. She not only won the gold medal but also created a world record. Avani Lekhara became the first woman in the history of the Paralympic Games to win a gold medal.

The gold medal was a culmination of her brilliant show earlier in the Para Shooting World Cup in Al Ain. Avani Lekhara settled for silver at that time but this made her one of the top athletes from India to secure a medal and she did not disappoint. Supported by the GoSports Foundation, Avani’s feats on August 30, 2021, will live on forever in the history of India Paralympics.

Avani Lekhara finds the inspiration from Abhinav Bindra

When Lekhara was 10 years old, she was involved in a major car accident. This injured her spinal cord, making her dependent on a wheelchair. She wondered how she would lead her life. But, two major things happened which inspired her to take the sport of shooting. Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and reading his biography A Shot at History was enough inspiration for Lekhara to take up shooting as a sport.

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.

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 caregiver, a pass that was issued by the government so that Paralympians can take their medical service providers anywhere during COVID-19.

Lekhara secures glory for Tokyo 2020

Before the start of Tokyo 2020, there was a Para shooting event held in Al Ain earlier in 2021. This was the first Paralympic event in shooting as the whole 2020 calendar was canceled in the wake of the pandemic. Lekhara was in fine form as she secured the silver medal and rose to world number five.

The silver at Al Ain was the start of something big for Lekhara at Tokyo 2020. In a fantastic display of shooting, she broke the Paralympic world record to win the gold medal. She became the third woman in the history of the Paralympics to win a medal with Deepa Malik winning the shotput bronze in 2016 and Bhavina Patel securing silver in Table Tennis. But, Lekhara became the first woman gold-medalist from India in the history of either the Paralympics or normal Olympics.

India are enjoying a great run in the Tokyo Paralympics. Lekhara’s gold, in addition to silver from Bhavina, Devendra Jhajhariya has already made this their best Paralympic games ever. With the Olympians winning seven medals in Tokyo 2020, the Paralympians have matched the tally with more glory expected in the coming six days.

The brilliance of India’s Paralympians

In the past, it has been the Paralympians that have scripted history for India in sport. Murlikant Petkar, Mariyapan Thangavelu and Devendra Jhajhariya have achieved history in sports where other normal Indian athletes have never even come close. Jhajhariya’s feat was only recently matched by Neeraj Chopra when he won the javelin gold medal in Tokyo 2020.

Before Sushil Kumar and PV Sindhu, Joginder Singh Bedi is the only Indian to not win two but three Paralympic medals. Lekhara now joins Petkar, Thangavelu and Jhajhariya to have secured gold in the Paralympics.

Indian sport is now on the upswing after the performances of the athletes in Tokyo 2020 and the Paralympic Games. Lekhara has shown that by overcoming the odds and flying the tri-colour high, Paralympians will get a shot in the arm for investment and backing. Just like Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal spawned a revolution in shooting, Lekhara’s gold will go a long way in inspiring Paralympians in the modern era. Tokyo 2020 has seen a new era in Indian sports, be it Olympics or Paralympics. Lekhara is the symbol of the new, determined India who have no fear on the world stage.

Sportslumo Desk

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