Updated: August 30, 2021 3:31:20 pm
A car accident in 2012 left Avani Lekhara wheelchair-bound but on Monday the shooter felt “on top of the world” after becoming the first Indian woman to snare a Paralympic gold medal.
Focussing on only one shot at a time and shutting out everything else did the trick for Lekhara. She fired her way to the top of the podium in the R-2 women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 event.
“I can’t describe this feeling, I’m feeling like I’m on top of the world. It’s unexplainable,” she said after the triumph.
Lekhara, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012, finished with a world record equalling total of 249.6, which is also a new Paralympic record.
On staying calm through the final, Lekhara said, “I was just saying one thing, that I have to take one shot at a time. There’s nothing else that 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.”
The 19-year-old from Jaipur, who started shooting on the insistence of her father in 2015 at a city shooting range, was delighted to have become the first Indian woman to win a Paralympics gold.
“I’m so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there’s a lot of medals more to come.”
She has not looked back since firing her first shot some six years ago, enjoying every bit of the precision sport while working her way to glory at the showpiece.
“It seems very homely when I lift a rifle. I feel a connection towards it. When you have to focus and the consistency, that’s what I like about shooting,” she said.
Have been training without a coach: Kathuniya
It’s a silver worth its weight in gold for Indian discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya, who trained for the Paralympics without a coach and is quite proud to have finished on the podium without any tangible guidance for over one year now.
The 24-year-old, a B.Com graduate from New Delhi’s Kirorimal College, sent the disc to a best distance of 44.38m in his sixth and last attempt to clinch the silver.
“That was amazing. Winning the silver has given me so much more motivation to get the gold medal at Paris 2024,” he said in the mixed zone.
Kathuniya said preparing for the Games was hard for him as lockdowns ensured that facilities were closed for a major part of the last two years.
“In the last 18 months the preparations have been very tough. In India there was a six month lockdown so every stadium was closed,” he said.
“When I could return to the stadium on a daily basis I had to practice by myself. I couldn’t have a coach then and I am still training without a coach. It was a great moment that I could win the silver medal without a coach,” he added.
“I am going to work hard. I was just one metre away from the gold medal here, but in Paris I will want to break the world record,” he said.
“Today was not my day as I was fully prepared to break the world record here, but that was a barrier I just could not break today.”
India elated by your stellar performance: President to shooter Avani Lekhara
President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday congratulated shooter Avani Lekhara for creating history by becoming the first Indian woman to win gold at the Paralympics and said India is elated by her stellar performance. Lekhara, aged 19, became the first Indian woman to achieve the feat, firing her way to the top of the podium in the R-2 women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event at Tokyo.
Another daughter of India makes us proud!
Congratulations to Avani Lekhara for creating history and becoming the first Indian woman to win a Gold at #Paralympics. India is elated by your stellar performance! Our tricolour flies high at the podium due to your phenomenal feat.
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 30, 2021
“Another daughter of India makes us proud! Congratulations to Avani Lekhara for creating history and becoming the first Indian woman to win a Gold at Paralympics. India is elated by your stellar performance! Our tricolour flies high at the podium due to your phenomenal feat,” Kovind tweeted.
The president also congratulated Yogesh Kathuniya for winning silver in discus throw, Devendra Jhajharia and Sundar Singh Gurjar for winning silver and bronze respectively in javelin throw.
“Delighted to see our Paralympians bring more glory to the nation! Yogesh Kathuniya wins silver in discus throw, Devendra Jhajharia and Sundar Singh Gurjar bags silver and bronze respectively in javelin throw. Congratulations! Every Indian is celebrating your success,” he said.
Home Minister Amit Shah compliments Indian athletes’ achievements at Paralympics
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday congratulated Indian athletes who have won medals, including gold, at the Tokyo Paralympics and said the country salutes their passion.
“Many congratulations to @AvaniLekhara for making every Indian proud by winning the gold medal with her hardwork and excellent performance in Paralympics. The entire nation salutes your passion and dedication for raising the honour of the tricolour in the world,” Shah tweeted in Hindi.
Well done Yogesh Kathuniya!
Congratulations on winning the Silver Medal in #Paralympics.
Nation rejoices your remarkable achievement. pic.twitter.com/H0952GUbRH
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) August 30, 2021
The home minister also hailed Devendra Jhajharia and Sundar Singh Gurjar for winning silver and bronze respectively in men’s javelin throw.
“The nation is witnessing a historic morning” So proud of our athletes! Congratulations to @DevJhajharia and @SundarSGurjar for winning the silver medal and bronze medal respectively in men’s javelin throw event in Paralympics,” he tweeted.
Shah congratulated discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya too for winning a silver.
“Well done Yogesh Kathuniya! Congratulations on winning the silver medal in Paralympics. Nation rejoices your remarkable achievement,” he said.