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HEADLINE STORY

Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win two Paralympic medals

File photo of Avani Lekhara during her women’s 10m air rifle standing SH1 final at the Tokyo Paralympics. (PTI Photo)

By: Sattwik Biswal

SHOOTER Avani Lekhara on Friday (3) became the first Indian woman to win two Paralympic medals by claiming the 50m Rifle 3 Position SH1 bronze to add to an unprecedented gold she had won earlier in the ongoing Games in Tokyo.

The 19-year-old Lekhara, competing in her debut Games, qualified second for the event with a score of 1176, including 51 inner 10s.

In the fiercely contested finals, Lekhara totalled 445.9 to finish ahead of Ukraine’s Iryna Shchetnik, who let slip her grip on the medal spot with a poor third shot of 9.9 in the elimination.

Lekhara had become the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold by claiming the top honours in the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event.

The Jaipur-based shooter, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012 rendering her immobile, had fired a world record equalling total of 249.6, which was also a new Paralympic record.

Prior to her, Joginder Singh Sodhi was the lone Indian to win multiple medals in the same edition of the Games when he fetched one silver and two bronze medals in the 1984 Paralympics.

His silver came in shot put, while the two bronze medals were won in discus and javelin throw.

Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia is the other multiple Paralympic medallist but all his three medals (two gold and a silver) have come in different editions of the Games.

The gold in Friday’s (3) event was claimed by China’s Zhang Cuiping with a new Games record of 457.9, while German Natascha Hiltrop took the silver with a 457.1 in the final.

Athletes in SH1 Rifle have an impairment in their legs, for example amputations or paraplegia. Some athletes compete in a seated position, while others compete in a standing position.

Lekhara started shooting on the insistence of her father in 2015 at a city shooting range.

“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 Praveen Lekhara had told PTI after the gold medal she won in 10m air rifle competition.

The youngster was also inspired by Olympic gold-medallist rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra after reading his autobiography, which was a gift from her father.

A student of law, Lekhara made her debut for India in 2017 World Cup in Al Ain, UAE.

Meanwhile, Praveen Kumar clinched a silver medal in the men’s high jump T64 event of the Paralympics on Friday (3).

The 18-year-old Kumar, competing in his debut Paralympics, set a new Asian record with a 2.07m jump to finish behind Great Britain’s Jonathan Broom-Edwards, who notched up his season’s best effort of 2.10m for the gold.

“I can’t explain how I feel. This jump was ecstatic. This is my first Paralympic Games and I am waiting to see what lies ahead,” he said after the superb performance.

This was also Kumar’s personal best performance and his first major medal since taking up the sport in 2019. The teenager is a Noida resident and is now the youngest medal winner in the Indian contingent.

The country has won two gold, six silver and four bronze medals so far, an unprecedented and truly remarkable performance given that its combined haul for all previous Games stood at 12 before this.

(PTI)

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