Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win gold at Paralympics
Tokyo: Shooter Avani Lekhara scripted history on Monday as she became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympics, firing her way to the top of the podium in the R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event here.
The 19-year-old from Jaipur, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012, finished with a world record equalling total of 249.6, which is also a new Paralympic record.
She is only the fourth Indian athlete to win a Paralympics gold after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004 and 2016) and high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu (2016).
“I can’t describe this feeling, I’m feeling like I’m on top of the world. It’s unexplainable,” an elated Lekhara said.
Hers is also the first shooting medal that India has logged in the showpiece.
“I’m so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there’s a lot of medals more to come,” Lekhara said.
In the R-1 men’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event, Mahavir Swaroop Unhalkar missed out on a podium, finishing fourth with a total of 203.9, while his compatriot Deepak was ousted in the qualification round after firing 592.6.
Lekhara edged out 2016 Rio Games gold-medallist Cuiping Zhang of China who clinched the silver medal with a total of 248.9 at the Asaka Shooting Range.
World number one and reigning world campion Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine took home the bronze with an effort of 227.5.
“I was just saying one thing, that I have to take one shot at a time. There’s nothing else 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 reflecting on her final.
Lekhara had finished fourth in the last world championship in 2019 but won a silver in the para-shooting World Cup in Al Ain in March.