19-year-old Avani Lekhara dedicated her historic gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics to the entire nation after scripting history on Monday. The teenager from Jaipur became the first Indian women to win a gold medal at the Paralympics or the Olympics.
Speaking to SportsTak shortly after winning the R2 – Women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 Final on Monday at the Asaka Shooting Range, Avani Lekhara said she was feeling on top of the world and it was difficult to describe her emotions in words.
“Every athlete dreams of winning a medal. For the last 5 years, I was working towards representing India at the Paralympics, waiting for this moment. I was not at all thinking about a medal, I was focussing on the process, taking one shot at a time. Now I am feeling like I am on top of the world. This feeling is inexplicable,” Avani said.
“This medal is not mine, it’s for the entire country. I want to dedicate this medal to the entire country.”
Featuring in her maiden Paralympic Games, Avani showcased her class, winning the gold medal with by equaling the world record and setting a new Paralympic Record of 249.6, beating China’s Zhang Cuiping who shot 248.9 for a silver medal.
Avani, like every other Paralympian, did not have it easy. The Jaipur girl sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012 but that did not stop her from taking up sports. With the guidance of her parents, Avani took to both shooting and archery but fell in love with shooting after reading her idol Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography ‘ A Shot at History’.
Avani began shooting in 2015 at Jagatpura Sports Complex in Jaipur and made her international debut in 2017. She rose the ranks quickly, jumping to the 5th spot in world rankings before the Tokyo Paralympics. She qualified for Monday’s final after finishing 7th in the qualification round but she left the chasing pack behind in the final.
“I am fortunate that I have very supportive parents. They supported me at each and every step,” Avani said.
“There is no shortcut for hard work. You just have to believe in yourself and keeping working hard. These two things have helped me win the medal. Everyone should trust themselves. Nothing better than giving 100 percent.
“Trust yourself, you can do anything if you believe in yourself.”
India took its medal tally to 6 (confirmed) on Monday as medals kept coming in a hurry. Devendra Jhaharia, who won the 2004 and 2016 gold in men’s javelin, took the silver in F46 category while Sundar Singh won the bronze in the same event. Yogesh Kathunya won the silver in Men’s Discus F56 event in Tokyo.