New Delhi: Life changed for Avni Lekhara early enough when a car crash left her immobile at the age of 11, but what the tragedy couldn’t do was take her and her family, with the determination to be a step above the circumstances.
Lekhara sustained serious spinal cord injuries in the 2012 crash, but she took it upon herself to lead the way, aided generously by her father’s insistence that she get into shooting.
A trainee to former Olympian shooter Suma Shirur, Lekhara became India’s first female gold medalist at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Monday when she shot a total of 249.6 in the 10m with the SH1 standing air rifle.
In doing so, the 19-year-old shooter from Jaipur set a new Paralympic record and also tied the world record.
She wasn’t quite enthralled with the idea of being a full-time shooter, but after reading Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography “A Shot At Glory” her deal with precision sport was sealed. .
Partly inspired by the story of India’s first individual Olympic gold medalist in addition to her hard work and dedication, Lekhara shaped her own piece of history during her very first Paralympic appearance.
As the Tokyo Paralympic Games approach, the relentless Covid-19 pandemic has only complicated the journey to glory, severely affecting his essential physiotherapy routine.
“As a person with a spinal cord disability, I have no feeling below my waist. I still need to exercise my legs every day, ”says Lekhara.
“Before, I had a physiotherapist who came to my house every day to help me exercise and stretch my legs. Since then, it is my parents who have to help me with these exercises. They are doing their best. “
When she was paralyzed, studies seemed to be the only option, but life had other ideas in store for her.
Once she picked up the rifle during the 2015 summer vacation, the vivacious Jaipur woman did pretty well, then began a journey that would one day see her storyline story by winning the biggest prize at the biggest scene in sport.
Browsing through the pages of Bindra’s autobiography only reinforced her determination to achieve her goal once she decided on one, which came after her first success in state and national level competitions.
Ranked fifth in the world, Lekhara is expected to compete in three other events: prone air rifle, 50m 3-position rifle for women and 50m mixed recumbent.
Speaking from Tokyo, an elated Lekhara said: “I feel so happy and grateful right now for this medal. I can’t explain how I’m feeling. I feel on top of the world.
“I dedicate my medal to all Indians. This is just the beginning. I have a lot of competition days to come and more medals to come. I still have three matches and I focus on them and give myself 100 percent.
After going through a lot of ups and downs in her career, Lekhara said she didn’t want to dwell on the past or think about the future.
She previously won a bronze medal at the WSPS World Cup in Bangkok in 2017 and improved the color of the silver medal at the next two World Cups in Osijek, Croatia in 2019 and Al Ain, Arab Emirates. united this year.
Shirur is with her in Tokyo after guiding Indian rifle shooters Divyansh Singh Panwar and Aishwary Pratap Singh Tomar in previous Olympics.
Lekhara edged Rio 2016 Games gold medalist Cuiping Zhang of China, who took the silver with a total of 248.9 at the Asaka shooting range.
World number one and reigning world champion Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine won the bronze medal with an effort of 227.5.
Glancing over her training days, Shirur said, “The Lakshya Shooting Club shooting range is on the first floor, but we made sure she had no difficulty coming and going as all the shooters at the club gelled with her so much that she was carried in her wheelchair by her fellow shooters every day.
While Lekhara performed 10- to 15-day high performance personal sessions with Shirur three or four times a year, restrictions imposed due to Covid since last year have not kept her from improving and achieving her goals.
In a bid to praise Lekhara, Anand Mahindra, the chairman of the Mahindra group tweeted on Monday that the first SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) customized for people with disabilities would be dedicated to him.