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Avani Lekhara First Indian Woman To Shoot Paralympics Gold, Equals Record At Tokyo 2020

Avani Lekhara clinches India's first gold in Tokyo Paralympics by winning the women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event

Avani Lekhara First Indian Woman To Shoot Paralympics Gold, Equals Record At Tokyo 2020
Avani Lekhara finished seventh in the qualification round with a total score of 621.7. But produced a stunning recovery to win the gold. Courtesy: Twitter

Avani Lekhara won India's first gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games 2020 with a world-record-equalling effort on Monday. She is the also first Indian woman to win an individual gold medal in the Paralympics or Olympics. (More Sports News)

She shot a total score of 249.6 in women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 final.

Lekhara finished seventh in the qualification round with a total score of 621.7. But produced a stunning recovery to win the gold.

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).

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 position.

She sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012.

"I can't describe this feeling, I'm feeling like I'm on top of the world. It's unexplainable," an elated Lekhara said.

Hers is also the first shooting medal that India has logged in the showpiece.

Until now, Abhinav Bindra and Neerav Chopra were the only Indians to have won individual gold medals in either Paralympics or Olympics.

"I'm so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there's a lot of medals more to come," Lekhara said.

Lekhara edged out 2016 Rio Games gold-medallist Cuiping Zhang of China who clinched the silver medal with a total of 248.9 at the Asaka Shooting Range.

World number one and reigning world champion Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine took home the bronze with an effort of 227.5.

"I was just saying one thing, that I have to take one shot at a time. There's nothing else matters now, just take one shot at a time and just finish it.

"I just think that I have to follow the process. Beyond that, I try not to think about the score or the medal tally," Lekhara said reflecting on her final.

This is Lekhara's first major international medal. She had finished fourth in the last world championship in 2019.

Appearing in her maiden Paralympics, Lekhara, 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, Lekhara had finished seventh with a total 621.7.

Encouraged by her father to get involved in a sport, Lekhara 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, Lekhara made her debut for India in 2017 World Cup in Al Ain, UAE.

She will also be competing in the mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1, the women's 50m Rifle 3 Positions SH1 and the mixed 50m Rifle Prone event.

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 position.

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