India at Paralympics 2020: Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win gold

When shooter Avani Lekhara and javelin thrower Sumit Antil won gold recently, we were reminded of the timeless lesson – never give up. Avani was paralyzed below her waist at the tender age of 11 because of a car accident. Sumit lost his left leg below the knee at the age of 17 because of a motorbike accident.

For both Avani and Sumit, life had become infinitely more challenging. They could have easily submitted to a life filled with disappointment and self-pity. Instead, they chose something different. They chose to inspire. They chose to not be bound by the wrath of their circumstances. They chose to win against all odds.


Lekhara, who idolized Abhinav Bindra and was introduced to shooting by her father, confessed to feeling on top of the world after winning the gold medal. “I can't describe this feeling, I'm feeling like I'm on top of the world. It's unexplainable. I'm so happy I could be the one to contribute it. Hopefully there's a lot of medals more to come, I was just saying one thing, that I have to take one shot at a time. There's nothing else matters now, just take one shot at a time and just finish it,” she was quoted as saying by the official Olympics website.


Lekhara registered an impressive score of 149.6 in the women’s standing 10 m air rifle event.

On the other hand, Antil (javelin throw) made a statement that will get narrated for years to come. He didn’t just break his own world record – he did it thrice! In his first throw, in his second throw and in his fifth throw.


After he lost his leg, Antil was heartbroken because he had to give up on his dreams. “I hit the lowest point mentally during that period. My dream was to get into the Army, which couldn’t happen after my disability. It broke my dreams, and it broke me along with it,” he said in an interview with Hindustan Times.


Antil admitted that training was tough and his leg would often bleed because of wear and tear. Yet, the only thing on his mind was Paralympics 2020.


In Paralympics, the rules are sometimes adjusted to accommodate a person’s disability. For example, if a person can’t shoot from a standing position, they are allowed to use a wheelchair.


Interestingly, athletes with disabilities have even competed in the regular Summer Olympics. In 1904, German American gymnast George Eyser performed with a solitary leg. Later on, Hungary’s Karoly Takacs (he was a right arm amputee) competed in 1948 and 1952’s shooting events.


To conclude, we’d like to say that athletes like Lekhara and Antil teach us something extremely important. They tell us that even if we fall incredibly, we can get back up stronger than before. Looking at them, we are humbled. If they are not complaining despite dealing with unimaginable hardships, why should we let anything hold us back?


References:


1. Tokyo Paralympics: Avani Lekhara wins Gold Medal in women's 10m AR Standing SH1 Final (Livemint)

2. Tokyo Paralympics: Sumit Antil wins gold, breaks world record thrice (The Indian Express)

3. Tokyo Paralympics 2020: Indian athletes make history (BBC)