Shooter Avani Lekhara created history yesterday as she became the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal at the Paralympics. She is 19 years old. 

To win a medal at the biggest sporting event in the world is a monumental accomplishment in itself, and the fact that she did it at such a young age, only makes it more impressive.

Here, we look at her story.

Avani is the daughter of Praveen Lekhara, an employee at the Revenue Appellate Authority. In 2012, Praveen was posted in Dholpur and it was while travelling to the city from Jaipur that the family had a car accident.

This left all the members with injury, but Avani took the biggest hit. She was paralysed from waist down and would spend a major part of the coming years in hospitals across Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.

This was a stressful situation to be in, and to distract her, her father got Avani enrolled for para-shooting. He wanted her to have something to channel her energy towards.

Little did he know that that one step would change Avani’s life, and the family’s. That in less than a decade she would be the best in the world.

In an interview given to The Indian Express, he said:

Doctors had told us that we have to keep her physically as well as mentally fit to have any chance of recovery and that’s why I got her enrolled at the shooting range in Jaipur. Initially, I got her a rented air rifle as we wanted to gauge her interest. She liked it as much as she likes reading books, and it was the start of a new journey for her.

Avani started training under coach Chandra Shekhar in 2016 and within a year won medals at the National Para Shooting Championship, WSPS World Cup in Al Ain and Bangkok.

Speaking about the athlete, her coach told The Indian Express:

Besides the physical or technical aspects, shooting remains a mental sport at the core and that’s what made Avani a good shooter even in her initial days. 

Next, Avani started training under Suma Shirur at the Lakshya Shooting Club, where everyone would start calling her Jaipur ki Maharani out affection. Shirur says that initially when the club did not have enough funds to have infrastructure fit for para-athletes, other shooters would lift Avani’s wheelchair with her sitting in it, whenever it was required.

With her win, Avani has made the entire nation proud and the people who have been a part of her journey have a very big reason to celebrate this.

Here’s hoping that the future holds nothing but the best for her. May she never miss the target, in life or a shooting range.