Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win multiple medals at Paralympics

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India's Avani Lekhara won the bronze medal in the women's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 event at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday. This is Lekhara's second medal of these Paralympics, making her the first Indian woman to win multiple medals at the Paralympics.

Lekhara won gold in the women's 10m air rifle standing SH1 event on Monday, August 30. Lekhara's bronze takes India's medals tally at the Tokyo Games to 12 medals - two gold, six bronze and four silver. It is three times India's previous best haul of four medals, achieved in 2016 and in 1984. Eight of the 12 medals have come in athletics, three in shooting and one in table tennis.

When Lekhara won gold on Monday, she became the first Indian woman to win gold at the Paralympics and the fourth Indian gold medallist overall at the Para Games. Later that day, Sumit Antil became the fifth by winning gold in the men's javelin throw F64. Lekhara is only the third Indian woman to win a Paralympic medal, after Deepa Malik (shot put, 2016) and Bhavinaben Patel (table tennis, 2020), who both won silver. At 19, Lekhara also became the youngest Indian ever to medal at the Paralympics but her record was short-lived as 18-year-old Praveen Kumar won silver in the men's high jump F64 earlier on Friday.

In Friday's final, Lekhara edged Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik by 0.4 points to confirm her bronze medal before shooting a 10.2 in her final shot to finish with a score of 445.9. China's Zhang Cuiping won gold with a Paralympic Record score of 457.9, while Germany's Natascha Hiltrop took silver with a score of 457.1.

Lekhara, who finished second in qualification, managed a total of 149.5 in 15 shots for fourth position after the kneeling series, the first of the final. The prone series was a higher-scoring one, but two shots of 9.6 and 9.7 pushed her down into sixth place.

In the standing elimination series, Lekhara fought her way up to fifth place and by the end of the 40th shot overall, she was off third place by just 0.1 points. A 10.3 on the next shot brought her level with Shchetnik, who shot 10.2. Lekhara then shot 10.2 and 10.5 on her next two shots, while Shchetnik shot 10.4 and 9.9, to take the bronze medal.

The current World No. 5 in women's the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event, 19-year-old Lekhara is making her maiden Paralympics appearance in Tokyo. She finished 27th in the mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1 qualification on Wednesday. Lekhara has one more event to go, the mixed 50m rifle prone SH1on Sunday.

A major car accident in 2012 injured her spinal cord, leaving her dependent on a wheelchair. Three years on, after her father's encouragement, she decided to try out her hand in professional shooting and archery. As luck would have it, she got inspired to take the former seriously after reading A Shot At History, the autobiography of Abhinav Bindra, India's first individual Olympic gold medallist.

Lekhara, supported by GoSports Foundation since 2017, had recently won a silver medal at the 2021 Para Shooting World Cup.