On Monday, 19-year-old Avani Lekhara competed against seven other air rifle shooters to win gold at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Avani, who hails from Jaipur, Rajasthan, finished with a record score of 249.6 to win the gold medal.
She was followed by China's Cuiping Zhang with a silver (248.9) and Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik who took bronze with a total of 227.5.
In the qualifying round, Avani started with 103 in the first series of shots and went on tally 102.8, 104.9, 104.8, 102.1, and 104.5 as she finished seventh with 621.7 points and squeezed into the eight-shooter final.
Avani Lekhara, an SH1 classification athlete, won India its first gold medal at the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics. Earlier, Gujarat's Bhavina Patel won silver for Table Tennis in the women's category.
A former Law student, Avani took to the sport in 2015 and began training at Jagatpura Sports Complex in Jaipur. While her interest lay both in archery and rifle shooting, she decided to pursue a professional feat in rifle shooting having been inspired by Abhinav Bindra's autobiography.
The Paralympian made her international debut at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. She is currently the only female para-athlete from India to have won gold at the Paralympics.
In the past, this feat was a male-occupied territory with Mulikant Petkar (1972), Devendra Jharjharia (2004, 2016) and Mariyappan Thangelu (2016) bringing gold for their country.
Avani is the first Indian female athlete to win a gold medal in either Olympics or the Paralympics. The silver medals won by Deepa Malik in 2016 Rio and para-table tennis player Bhavina Patel on Sunday were the best efforts by Indian female sportspersons at the Paralympics.
PM congratulates Avani
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to congratulate the shooter, tweeiting, "Phenomenal performance @AvaniLekhara! Congratulations on winning a hard-earned and well-deserved Gold, made possible due to your industrious nature and passion towards shooting. This is truly a special moment for Indian sports. Best wishes for your future endeavours."
The 19-year-old Avani, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012, qualified seventh for the final but shot superbly to leapfrog seven shooters in the first elimination series itself in the final and never looked back.
(With additional inputs from agencies)