Photograph: IndiaPicture/ Reuters
Femina’s Fabulous 40 for 2021
The Olympians who represented the country on a prestigious platform. Some brought glory and others hope. The women who inspire us and make us believe that anything is possible, especially after the year that we have had. Women who have raised their voices and lent a voice to those who did not have one. There are too many to count, but this selection of 40 women will motivate us to hold our heads high while we march ahead
Rifle Shooter & Paralympian
All of 19, Avani Lekhara made the country proud by becoming the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold medal. Currently the World #5 in Women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1, she tied for the world record with a score of 249.6 points in the finals of the 10m Air Rifle Standing Event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Lekhara suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 2012. The injury left her paralysed from the waist down. Just 11 years old at the time, she was encouraged by her father to take up sports. She trained in archery first, but turned to shooting after realising her passion for the sport. Inspired by former Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, Lekhara took up shooting in 2015, and, the following year, started training at the Jagatpura Shooting Range under coach Chandra Shekhar, who helped her focus on 10m air rifle events and 50m rifle events. Lekhara soon began winning medals – she won titles in the National Para Shooting Championship, and medals at the WSPS World Cups. In 2018, she also started training at the Lakshya Shooting Club in Mumbai under coach Suma Shirur. She went on to win a silver medal in the WSPC World Cup in Croatia in 2019 and another silver at the WSPC World Cup in Al Alin in the UAE earlier in 2021.
Lekhara’s mental fortitude, hard work and determination all prove that there’s no stopping you from excelling in what you put your mind and heart to. In an interview, she has said she wants people to look at her and feel that, if she can do it, they can too, and, if her medal inspires even one person, it will be a great thing for her. She added that no one should feel sad about their disability; instead, she advises people to believe in themselves and give their 100 per cent, as there’s no substitute for hard work. “When life hits you, you hit (back) even harder!”
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