Meet Avani Lekhara The Champion Shooter From Jaipur
Avani Lekhara’s Twitter bio once read, “Life consists not in holding good cards, but in playing those cards you hold well.” By winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics 2021, the 20-year-old champion shooter from Jaipur proved the proverb to be true. Her ascent to the top has been unexpectedly swift but spectacular.
Avani Lekhara created history by being the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympics. In the R2 women’s 10m air rifle SH-1 competition, she finished with a score of 249.6, which equaled the previous world record and set a new Paralympic record. A couple of days later, she won a bronze medal in the women’s 50m three-position SH-1 competition.
Lekhara’s accomplishment makes her only the second Indian to ever win multiple medals at the same Paralympics; Joginder Singh Sodhi won three medals at the 1984 Games.
After winning her gold medal, Avani Lekhara said in an interview, “I can’t put this feeling into words and I feel on top of the world.” She added that the key to winning was to ignore everything else and concentrate solely on each shot.
In 2012, Lekhara was forced to use a wheelchair due to a severe spinal cord injury sustained in a car accident. Lekhara decided to become a professional shooter three years later after her father encouraged her to do so. Dad brought me to shooting and archery ranges in 2015, Lekhara recounts. I tried both, but ever since I first held a rifle, I’ve had a great attraction to shooting. After reading Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography, A Shot At History, Lekhara began to take competitive sports more seriously.
Lekhara is no stranger to the big stage, even if this was her first Paralympic competition. Lekhara won a bronze medal in the National Championship in 2015, her first year of training and competing as a shooter, after dominating the Rajasthan state tournament using a rifle she borrowed from her tutor.
Lekhara has maintained her position at the top in India ever since, despite facing fierce competition from players from other countries. At the Para Shooters World Cup in Al Ain in 2017, she made her professional debut.
At the 2021 Para Shooting World Cup in the UAE, she showed consistency and self-assurance by winning a silver medal with a score of 246.7. Iryna Shchetnik, the world’s top athlete and Lekhara’s fiercest rival, won the gold medal by a thin margin of 0.3.
For Avani Lekhara, the journey hasn’t been simple at all. In India, parasports are not well-known. “Initially, I had my doubts, but after putting in a lot of effort, everything just sort of clicked,” admits Lekhara.