Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win gold medal, sets new record at Tokyo Paralympics

In her debut Games, Avani Lekhara scored 249.6 in the final of the women’s 10m air rifle shooting SH1 class. It was India’s fifth gold at the Paralympics.

By Rahul Venkat

India’s Avani Lekhara made history by becoming the first Indian woman to win Paralympics gold at Tokyo 2020 in the women’s 10m air rifle shooting SH1 class on Monday.

The world No. 5 Avani Lekhara shot a score of 249.6 in the final - creating a new Paralympics record and also equalling the world record - on her Games debut.

This is India’s first Paralympics medal in shooting and Avani Lekhara is the fourth Indian to win a Paralympics gold after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004, 2016) and high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu (2016).

It is also India’s fourth medal at the Tokyo Paralympics - equalling the country’s haul from the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

The 19-year-old Avani Lekhara took the gold medal ahead of China’s Cuiping Zhang - who shot 248.9 to win silver - and Iryna Shchetnik of Ukraine - who took bronze with a score of 227.5.

Cuiping Zhang was the reigning Olympic champion while Iryna Shchetnik is the reigning world champion.

Avani Lekhara had earlier finished seventh in qualifying with a score of 621.7.

In the SH1 rifle shooting class, athletes can support the full weight of the rifle themselves. The athletes have an impairment in their legs - like amputation or paraplegia. Some shooters compete in a seated position while some in the standing position.

Avani Lekhara will compete in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1, the mixed 10m air rifle SH1 and mixed 10m rifle prone SH1 events at the Tokyo Paralympics next.