TOKYO — 19-year-old Indian shooter Avani Lekhara made history to become the first Indian woman Paralympian to win gold on Aug. 30. She finished first in the R-2 Women’s 10-meter Air Rifle Standing SH1 event in Tokyo, equaling the world record with a total score of 249.6 in the final.

Lekhara said after the final that she was over the moon about her performance at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020.

“I’m feeling so happy, so grateful, so elated for everything,” she said.

“When I won gold, I was so happy that I couldn’t believe it. I felt like I am on top of the world. I was so happy.”

Lekhara is now only the fourth Indian Paralympian to bring home gold. Swimmer Murlikant Petkar debuted in India’s gold rush way back in 1972.

It was after 34 years that champion Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia stood atop the podium in 2004 and again in 2016. High jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu at the same Rio Parlamypics won India its fourth gold medal.

Lekhara finished with a Paralympic Record, and in-process equaled the world record with her final score. However, the road to the finals was far from easy. Lekhara started poorly in qualification and then staged a comeback.

The shooter started the final at a very good pace as she scored consistently above 10 points. Just two of her shots went below 10 in the first competition stage, which landed her in the second position. Going into the elimination stage, Lekhara grabbed the first spot and maintained a very healthy lead against her opponents.

“I was just focusing on my game, taking one shot at a time,” she said. “I just wanted to give my hundred percent; that’s it. (I) wasn’t thinking about the medal.”

“I believe everyone can do whatever they want, you just have to have faith in yourself. Just give your 100 percent, and you can do anything you want,” she added.

The young para-athlete dedicated her medal to the citizens of the country who supported her during the journey.

“I would like to dedicate my medal to all the Indians. All of them have supported me, and I’m so thankful and grateful to each one of them.”

India saw a historic run at the Paralympics on Aug. 30 as Avani Lekhara was not the only one to win a medal. Devendra Jhajhariaria bagged a silver medal, and Sundar Singh Gurjar won gold in the men’s Standing Javelin Class F-46 event.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Krishna Kakani