Avani Lekhara was born on 8th November 2001 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Her height is 160 cm (5 ft 3 in) and she is a rifle shooter. Avani Lekhara won the gold medal by winning the 2020 Summer Paralympics: 10m air standing SH1 as well as a bronze medal in 50, air rifle standing. She is the first woman from India who won a Paralympic gold medal. Currently, as per the World Shooting Para Sports Ranking, she is in the 5th position in the world for Women’s 10m Air Rifle standing SH1.
Avani Lekhara has also competed in the 2018 Asian Para Games. She has to face a major injury in her spinal cord in 2012 due to a car accident which left her being dependent on a wheelchair. She was hopeless for three years and it was hard for her to find the motivation and courage to stand up again and start her career. After all these struggles, her father gave her encouragement and motivation, after that, she set her mind to dedicate her time and motivation to professional archery and shooting. With this optimistic mindset, accompanied by good luck, she got more inspiration and motivation by reading the autobiography of India’s first gold medal winner of individual Olympic, Abhinav Bindra, ‘A Shot at History’.
Journey of becoming a winner at Paralympics
Avani Lekhara is the first Indian woman who wins several Paralympic medals. On August 30, she won the Paralympic gold medal by participating in the event of women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1. Also, at Tokyo Paralympics, Avani Lekhara won the bronze medal in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 event. By winning this bronze medal, she took the medals tally of India at the Tokyo Games to 12 medals, where India represents two golds, four silver, and six bronze.
It is three times for India including the previous best four medals haul which are achieved in 1984 and 2016. Among all 12 medals; 12 medals have come by athletics, one by table tennis, and three by shooting. Avani Lekhara becomes the first woman in India who win the gold medal at the Paralympics as well as the fifth Indian gold medalist inclusive at the Paralympics Games. There are other women who previously won medals in Paralympics such as, Bhavinaben Patel who won a silver medal in table tennis, and Deepa Malik who also won the silver medal in shot put. But, Avani Lekhara is the first woman, to win a gold medal along with a bronze in the Paralympics.
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At the age of 19, Avani Lekhara has also become the youngest Indian gold medalist in the Paralympics. However, her record as the youngest Paralympic winner stayed for a very short period of time, because Praveen Kumar who is 18 years old won the silver medal in Paralympic by participating in the men’s high jump F64.
In the finale, Avani Lekhara fringed Iryna Shchetnik, a Ukraine player, by 0.4 points in order to secure her bronze medal. Right after that she shot her final shooting a 10.2 and finished with a 445.9 score. Natascha Hiltrop, a German player, took the silver medal in the finale with a score of 457.1, and Zhang Cuiping, a Chinese player, took the gold medal in the finale with a score of 457.9. On the other hand, Avani Lekhara, at the first of the finale, managed to finish the game with second place with a total score of 149.5 in the event of 15 shots for the fourth position after kneeling series. Regarding her performance, Avani Lekhara said “It was a tough final but I’m happy to have made it into bronze. I could have done better than this. It’s just what finals do to you.”
Hurdles made her Unstoppable
In the series of standing elimination at the Paralympics, Avani Lekhara fought with full dedication and concentration to get fifth place. And, through the end of the overall 40th shot, she got off third place with just 0.1 points. However, in the next shot, she earned a 10.3 shot which brought her to the same level as Shchetnik, who shot 10.2. After becoming the same level as Shchetnik, in the following two shots, Lekhara shot 10.2 and 10.5; where on the other hand, Shchetnik shot 10.4 and 9.9. By gaining a higher score compared to Shchetnik, Avani Lekhara secured her bronze medal in the Paralympics. All of these stages of winning several medals at Paralympics show the tough journey of Avani Lekhara towards gaining the title of the first Indian women gold medalist in Paralympics. With her full dedication and motivation, Lekhara has been able to achieve the place where she is today. Even after going through a life-altering major incident, Avani Lekhara did not give up and with the support of her family along with her own motivation and courage, she has successfully brought pride to India as an Indian woman.
Last Wednesday, Avani Lekhara finished her 27th mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 qualification and now she has many more events to attend. In a recent interview, while sharing her experience regarding the winner of multiple medals at Paralympics, she said that it was a marvelous experience for her to win gold and bronze, two medals in her first Paralympics. Lekhara mentioned that it was her pet events at Paralympics and she has been really working very hard for several months just to win these two events and gave her 100 percent effort and dedication in her last shot in the game.
Even after winning these two big events at the Paralympics, Avani Lekhara mentioned that she thinks she still needs to work on many things to enhance her performance, and she would do much better next time in the games. Considering all the international top-notch players who participated in similar events, it can be said that there were many distractions for Avani Lekhara. But she did not let all these factors and additional variables of the circumstances let her distract, and gave her full concentration and efforts in the games, which enabled her to bring pride to the nation as an Indian woman.