Avani Lekhara is the first Indian woman who has won a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. Here’s the amazing story of Avani, who is just 19.
Avani Lekhara, a shooter, has etched her mark in history by winning against all odds during her outstanding journey from Jaipur to Tokyo. She arrived at the Paralympics as one of the youngest athletes and would leave as the first woman Indian gold medalist.
Avani became the victim of a car crash when she was 11 years old, which resulted in a spinal cord damage and paralysis of her lower half. The girl, who was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, had to contend with not only physical illness but also inward screams of rage and hopelessness.
But she says that life isn’t about holding good cards, but about playing the ones you do have skillfully.
Avani’s accomplishment not only earned her another personal victory, but also brought pride to Indian paralympians. Dilraj Kaur, India’s first woman para shooter, expressed pride over Avani’s victory.
How Avani’s career as an athlete started
From a young age, the girl was driven by ambition and had her sights set on bringing honours to the country. She is currently studying her BA LLB degree at the University of Rajasthan and has always aspired to be a pillar of the judiciary or a gold medalist in athletics.
When her severe injury rendered her sedentary, Avani decided to try her hand at sports with the help of her father. She said her father took her to shooting and archery ranges in 2015, and she tried both. However, Avani felt incredibly linked to shooting since the first time she grabbed a rifle.
As a result, her career as an athlete began.
As she became interested in the field, Avani read ‘A Shot At History,’ which narrates the life story of Abhinav Bindra who was India’s first Olympic solo gold medalist in shooting. Bindra’s determined journey pushed the young athlete to reach greatness even though the route was difficult.
Avani persevered through training to achieve new goals. During a media interview, she recalled how difficult training was owing to the great weight of the gun. Even hiring a coach, she claims, was tough because para-athletes use different tactics that only specific instructors can teach.
Avani says living as a disabled person is in itself a victory
She says, “Some people feel it is easier for us, but it is not…Living with a disability is an accomplishment in and of itself.”
Despite this, Avani went on to win many times on the national and international circuits, and her name began to be spoken among world-class shooters such as Veronika Vadovicova and Iryna Shchetnik.
Her first event, conducted in her home state of Rajasthan in 2015, resulted in a bronze medal for her. She has since risen to World Number 5 in the women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1. She earned silver medals in the 2017 IPC Para Shooting World Cup and the 2019 Para Shooting World Cup.
This year, she won gold at the first-ever National Para Shooting Championship in the women’s R2 10m air rifle women’s SH1, as well as silver at the Al Ain World Shooting Para Sport World Cup.
Her first major international victory, though, is a historic Paralympic medal. Her impressive performance in the R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 totaled 249.6 points. It earned her a gold medal and established a new Paralympic world record.
The fact that she accomplished this achievement the first time she set foot on the Paralympic grounds attests to her fearless approach to achieving her goals.