Who is Avani Lekhara: The 19-year-old shooter equalled the world record total of 249.6 points at and won gold in women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing (SH1) event at Tokyo Paralympic Games on Monday (August 30). The teenage shooter scripted history by becoming the first Indian ever to win a gold medal in shooting at the Paralympics. Silver medal for the event went to China’s Cuiping Zhang and Ukraine’s Iryna Shchetnik secured bronze. Zhang and Shchetnik scored 248.9 and 227.5 points respectively.
Lekhara equalled Iryna Shchetnik’s world record that was set in 2018. She also became the first shooter from India to win a Paralympics medal.
Who is Avani Lekhara: Here are ten things to know about the teen shooting prodigy:
1. Lekhara met with a near-fatal car accident at the age of 11 in the year 2012. She has been wheelchair-bound ever since. To this day, she faces complications due to serious injuries in her spinal cord.
2. However, going against all odds, Lekhara qualified for the Paralympics Games at Tokyo this year and currently holds the World Number 5 position in Women’s 10m Air Rifle standing SH1, as per the World Shooting Para Sports Rankings released earlier this year.
3. Her life changed when she read Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography, A Shot At History. The legendary shooter’s journey inspired her to take up shooting and in her very first Rajasthan state championship in 2015, Lekhara won a bronze.
4. The Jaipur-based para-athlete began shooting in 2015 at Jagatpura Sports Complex and won her first state medal using a rifle borrowed from her coach. She made her international debut in 2017. She clinched two consecutive gold medals at the National Shooting Championship in 2015 and 2016.
5. She also clinched a silver medal at the recent Para Shooting World Cup. Lekhara scored a brilliant 248.7 in the final but missed out on gold by a 0.3 point margin.
6. Lekhara brought home a silver medal from the IPC Para Shooting World Cup in 2017 and added another medal after winning silver at the 2019 Para Shooting World Cup in Osijek, Croatia. She won the gold at the first National Para-shooting championships in the women’s R2 10m air rifle women’s SH1 earlier this year. Know more about her here.
7. She had earlier broken the junior world record in 50m Rifle 3 Positions SH1 finals at the 2019 WSPS Championships, Australia.
8. In Tokyo, Lekhara became the fourth Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Paralympics after swimmer Murlikant Petkar in 1972, javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia in 2004 and 2016 and high jumper Thangavelu Mariyappan in 2016.
9. Lekhara holds a Paralympic world record with a score of 249.6 points alongside Ukraine’s Iryna Shchetnik.
10. Next, she will be competing in three more events at the Paralympics: Women’s R8 – 50m rifle 3 positions SH1, Mixed R3 – 10m air rifle prone SH1 and Mixed R6 – 50m rifle prone SH1.
Feature Image Credit: Avani Lekhara/Instagram