Shooter Avani Lekhara wins India’s first Paralympics gold

India’s Avani Lekhara created history, winning the gold medal in the women’s R2 10 metres Air Rifle standing SH1 shooting event at the Paralympics, on Monday.

The 19-year-old is the first Indian woman to win a Paralympics gold medal. She finished with a Paralympics record, and, in the process, equalled the World mark with 249.6 points, at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo.

China’s Cuiping Zhang took silver after 248.9 points and Ukraine’s Iryna Shchetnik won bronze.

Lekhara is the fourth Indian athlete to win a Paralympics gold, after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004 and 2016) and high jumper Thangavelu Mariyappan (2016).

In the SH1 Rifle category, shooters can hold the gun with arms. The athletes have an impairment, like amputations or paraplegia, in their legs. Some compete in a seated position, while others stand and fire.

There was more joy for the Indian contingent as Yogesh Kathuniya won the silver medal in the men’s discus throw F56 event.

Lekhara started the final at a very good pace, scoring consistently above 10 points. Just two of her shots were below 10 in the first round, in which she placed second.

Going into the elimination stage, she snatched first place early and maintained a healthy lead before finishing with 249.6 points.

Earlier, in the qualification round, Lekhara finished seventh with a score of 621.7, but recovered splendidly later to advance to the final round.

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