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India’s first woman Paralympic gold medallist Avani Lekhara inspired by Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography

Avani used to practise shooting 7-8 hours daily, say family members. Veteran Devendra Jhajharia and Sunder Singh Gurjar win javelin medals in a day of glory for Rajasthan.

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Jaipur |
August 30, 2021 5:01:37 pm
Asaka: India's Avani Lekhara smiles on the range on her way to winning the Shooting Women's 10m AR Standing SH1 Final at the Asaka Shooting Range during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (Source: AP)

In 2012, Avani Lekhara met with a car accident and sustained an injury that left her paralysed. Nine years later, the 19-year-old became the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal as she topped the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event in Tokyo. Her family back home says it was the autobiography of Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra that inspired Avani to take up and excel in shooting.

“My son (Avani’s father) was posted as ADM in Dholpur in 2012. In February 2012, while he was travelling with family from Dholpur from our residence in Jaipur, the car met with an accident. While everybody sustained injuries, Avani was paralysed owing to a spine injury. In those days, she used to feel very hopeless. She was very intelligent and used to do very well academically. It was at this time that she read the autobiography of Abhinav Bindra along with other stuff on shooting and developed an interest in the sport,” said grandfather GS Lekhara.

“She has been practising shooting since 2012. We have always hoped that she would bring home a medal. Avani had been working extremely hard, practising for 7-8 hours every day at the Jagatpura shooting range in Jaipur. We haven’t got an opportunity to speak with her after she won the gold medal as she is set to compete in other events,” said her father Praveen Lekhara, who is presently posted as the revenue appellate authority in Rajasthan’s Sriganganagar district.

READ | Paralysed from waist down, but ‘Jaipur ki Maharani’ shoots down Paralympic gold

‘I was sure that Jhajharia would bring back a medal’

Family members of Paralympian Devendra Jhajharia who hails from Churu district in Rajasthan say that he was ecstatic after he won the silver medal in javelin throw on Monday. The 40-year-old Jhajharia had won two gold medals in the 2004 and 2016 Paralympic games.

Wouldn’t be here without his efforts: Devendra Jhajharia dedicates silver medal to late father

“When I spoke with him after the victory, he was ecstatic. He was very happy that even 17 years after his first gold in 2004, he is still competing and winning medals for India. It is not easy to compete with much younger competitors and maintain fitness even at the age of 40. This time, he also achieved his personal best with a 64.35 metre throw,” said Jhajharia’s younger brother, Arvind. Jhajharia, father of two, had lost one of his hands in an accident when he was eight-year-old. His brother added that Jhajharia was sure that he would bring back a medal and was training hard for that in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar.

Devendra Jhajharia and Sunder singh gurjar Jhajharia, who lost his left hand after accidentally touching an electric wire while climbing a tree at the age of eight, bettered his own earlier world record (63.97m). (PCI)

Sunder Singh Gurjar makes it three for Rajasthan

The third medalist from Rajasthan is another javelin thrower, 25-year-old Sunder Singh Gurjar, who clinched the bronze medal in the same event. “We are very happy to see him win. He used to practice in the SMS stadium in Jaipur with his coach Mahaveer Saini and later trained in Bangalore,” says Hari Om Gurjar, elder brother of Sunder Singh Gurjar, from Rajasthan’s Karauli district. The brother added that Gurjar was a javelin thrower even before 2015 when he lost one of his hands after a metal sheet fell on it at a friend’s house.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot congratulated the three Paralympians and announced prize money of Rs 3 crore, Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore for Lekhara, Jhajharia and Gurjar respectively. All three medalists are presently employed with the Rajasthan forest department as assistant conservators of forests.

READ | Rajasthan govt announces Rs 3 crore cash reward for gold-medallist Avani Lekhara

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