Tokyo Paralympics: Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win gold

Indian para shooter Avani Lekhara became the first woman from India to win a Paralympics gold, when she won the women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 title in Tokyo.

Tokyo Paralympics: Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win gold
India's Avani Lekhara became the first Indian woman to win an Paralympics gold. (Source: Twitter)

Indian paralympic shooter Avani Lekhara created history at the Tokyo Paralympics on Monday (August 30) when she became the first woman from the country to bag a paralympic gold medal. Avani won the women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 title defeating China's Zhang Cuiping (silver) and Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik (bronze).

Avani also equalled the current WR to win the women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 category with her gold medal-winning performance in Tokyo. The 19-year-old finished with a world record equalling total of 249.6, which is also a new Paralympic record.

She's the fourth Indian athlete to win a Paralympics gold after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004 and 2016) and high jumper Thangavelu Mariyappan (2016).

PM Narendra Modi called it a 'special moment for Indian sports'.  "Phenomenal performance @AvaniLekhara! Congratulations on winning a hard-earned and well-deserved Gold, made possible due to your industrious nature and passion towards shooting. This is truly a special moment for Indian sports. Best wishes for your future endeavours," Modi tweeted.

In the SH1 Rifle category, shooters are able to hold a gun with arms. The athletes have an impairment in their legs, for example amputations or paraplegia. Some athletes will compete in a seated position, while others will compete in a standing.

Lekhara edged out 2016 Rio Games gold-medallist Cuiping Zhangh 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.

This is Avani’s first major international medal. She had finished fourth in the last world championship in 2019. Appearing in her maiden Paralympics, Avani, ranked fifth in the world, consistently shot 10s in both the competition stages.

She was set to obliterate the world record but two 9.9s towards the end cost her the mark.

In the qualification round, Avani had finished seventh with a total 621.7. Encouraged by her father to get involved in a sport, Avani initially tried both shooting and archery.

She found she enjoyed shooting more, and was also inspired by 2008 Beijing Olympics gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra after reading his book. She began shooting in 2015 at Jagatpura Sports Complex in Jaipur. A student of law, Avani made her debut for India in 2017 World Cup in Al Ain, UAE.

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