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Tokyo Paralympics: Salute to her determination; Avani Lekhara wins her 2nd Paralympic medal

Indian shooter Avani Lekhara picked up her second medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, after she secured the bronze medal in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3P SH1, at the Asaka Shooting Range.

Avani Lekhara became the first Indian woman to pick up 2 Paralympic medals, since she had also won a historic gold, earlier in the ongoing Tokyo Games. She claimed top honour in the 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event to become the first female Indian Paralympic athlete to win a gold medal. Her gold, which came on the back of a Paralympic record-equalling 249.6 points, is also India’s first-ever medal in Shooting at the Paralympics.

Avani is the third-ever multiple Paralympic medal-winning Indian and is also the second Indian ever to win more than 1 medal in the same edition of the Paralympics. Joginder Singh Sodhi won multiple medals in 1984 Paralympics when he claimed a silver and two bronze medals. His silver came in Shot Put, while the two bronze medals were won in Discus and Javelin Throw events.

Tokyo is 19-year-old Lekhara’s maiden Paralympic campaign. She had sustained spinal cord injuries in an unfortunate car accident back in 2012, which rendered her immobile. She qualified in second place for the 50m Rifle event with a score of 1176, which included 51 inner 10s. It was a nail-biting competition between Lekhara and Iryna Schetnik from Ukraine and the former literally won the medal with her last shot. In the fiercely contested final, Lekhara amassed a total of 445.9 to clinch the bronze ahead of Schetnik. 

“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.”

Starting out in the kneeling position, Avani got a total of 149.5 points, with scores of 50.8, 50.3 and 48.4 in 3 rounds, respectively. In the 3 rounds in the prone position, she scored 51.5, 51.4, 51.0, taking her total score to 303.4. Finally, at the end of the standing elimination round, her scorecard read, 50.5, 50.8 and 48.4. Her final score came to 445.9 points. In the qualification rounds, the Jaipur-based shooter had put up a total score of 388 points in the four series of Kneeling positions. She scored 393 points in prone, and 395 points in the last standing position, to reach a total of 1176 points, at the end of the qualification stage. 

“It is an amazing experience to win two medals in my first Paralympic Games. These two are my pet events. I was really working hard for these two for so many months. I gave my 100 percent in the last shot.”

 It was on the insistence of her father, Praveen Lekhara, that she took to the sport of shooting at a Jaipur shooting range, back in 2015.

She was angry at her condition and hardly had a desire to talk to anyone. For a change, I used to take her to JDA shooting range in Jagatpura, Jaipur where she developed interest in shooting,” her father said, after her gold medal win. 

The 19-year old Law student made her Indian debut in the 2017 World Cup in Al Ain, UAE. She was inspired by rifle shooter and Olympic gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra, after she read his autobiography, which her father had gifted her.

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