Indian para shooter Avani Lekhara, who won the 10m Air Rifle – SH1 gold for the country at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Monday, said that she was feeling “on top of the world” and would be aiming for more glory here as well as in the future.
The 19-year-old Avani became the first Indian woman to win gold in the Paralympic Games when she shot a world record score of 249.6 in the finals on Monday. This is also India’s first gold medal in shooting in the Paralympic Games.
“I’m so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully, there’s a lot of medals more to come,” said the para shooter, who is paralysed below the waist after an injury to the spinal cord during a car accident in 2012.
“I can’t describe this feeling; I’m feeling like I’m on top of the world. It’s unexplainable,” said Avani, who is being coached by Chandra Shekhar in her hometown Jaipur since 2016. “I was just saying one thing (in the finals); that I have to take one shot at a time. Nothing else matters now, just take one shot at a time and just finish it,” the 19-year-old said.
“I just think that I have to follow the process. Beyond that, I try not to think about the score or the medal tally.”
Avani said that she feels a connection with her rifle, which keeps her motivated to pick up the gun and keep shooting good scores. “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.”
Avani, who has emerged as the new face on the Indian shooting scene after the dismal and unforgettable performance of the 15-odd contingent that had competed at the Tokyo Olympics less than a month back, added that he love affair with the sport began when her father took her to the JDA Shooting Range in Jaipur in 2015.
“Summer vacations 2015, my father took me to the shooting range. I shot some shots and they were pretty OK. So, I just started as a hobby, and here I am.”
Chief national coach JP Nautiyal said from Tokyo that, the “gold was well-deserving”. “She has done exactly what we have been doing in training, and followed the process. She has definitely set an example for the upcoming shooters in the country. I don’t tell the players to go out and win a medal but to give their best in every shot and that can together produce great result.”
Nautiyal credited her coach in Jaipur, Chandra Shekhar and national rifle coach Suma Shirur for Avani’s success. “Chandra Shekhar trains her in Jaipur, while Suma provides her with technical help in camps. Me and Subhash Rana (renowned shooter Jaspal Rana’s brother) provide her mental training,” said Nautiyal.
“We were expecting this performance from Avani. It hasn’t come as a surprise for me. I’m sure she will win more medals in Tokyo as she is competing in thee more events,” said Chandra Shekhar from Jaipur.
“Certainly, Avani has matured as a player. Now she knows what the best and how to achieve it. She knows that if you have to reach the top, it would be through only hard work, hard work and hard work,” added Chandra Shekhar.
The para-shooter will be in action again in the R3 Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone SH1 event, along with Siddhartha Babu and Deepak, on September 1. She will also take part in the R8 Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Positions SH1 on September 3 as well as the R6 Mixed 50m Air Rifle prone SH1 event, alongside Siddhartha and Deepak, on September 5.