It has been less than 20 days since a gold medal changed Avani Lekhara’s life. She took India’s first-ever shooting medal in the Paralympics leading a historic campaign at Tokyo 2020. A day that has not sunk in yet, according to the 19-year-old.
After reaching celebrity status in her country, the athlete said that her achievements were not just for her but for all those “who dare to dream.”
“Looking back at the Paralympics, it still feels quite surreal,” Lekhara posted on social media. “While the feeling still hasn’t quite sunk in yet, there’s unquestionably happiness within me. A sense of satisfaction that has come through executing perfectly after the enormous effort, hard work and dedication as a collective unit in all of the training sessions.”
The Indian athlete made her international debut in 2017 inspired by a book from Olympic champion shooter Abhinav Bindra. After a seventh-place best finish at the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games and a fourth place at the Sydney 2019 World Championships, Lekhara finally tasted podium glory in Tokyo.
“I can't describe this feeling, I'm feeling like I'm on top of the world. It's unexplainable,” she said after her gold in the the R2 – women's 10m air rifle standing SH1.
That Monday at the Asaka Shooting Range, Lekhara made a prediction that could not have been more certain.
“I'm so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there's a lot of medals more to come.”
Four days later, she returned to the podium as a bronze medallist in the R8 – women’s 50m rifle 3 positions SH1. In total, India took five shooting Para sport medals at Tokyo 2020.
Lekhara took her an important role in India's all-time best campaign at the Paralympic Games that she was chosen the flag-bearer at the Closing Ceremony in Japan.
“Touched beyond words by all the messages of good wishes and support. This win is not just for me, but for all of us who dare to dream. And, just like that dreams do come true! Apologies for not being able to reply to each one of you, but, appreciate every message that I have received,” she added in her post.