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To live with a disability is a victory in itself: Para-shooter Avani Lekhara

To live with a disability is a victory in itself: Para-shooter Avani Lekhara

Srijanee D. Majumdar

Published: 26 Nov 2019 3:12 PM GMT

“The car accident in February 2012 completely disrupted my movements and made me wheelchair-bound. It left me powerless.” For every gilt-edged success story of those like teenager Avani Lekhara, there are often awe-inspiring tales that regularly redefine the boundaries of possibility. All of 18, Avani is one of a rare handful of athletes to transcend the world of para-sports

Very, very able

Believe me, it is only a few who could have predicted just how integral little Avani would become to the narrative of para-shooting in the country. Very few. She sustained spinal cord injuries after a tragic car accident that left her paraplegic without the use of her legs. Encouraged by her father, Avani was urged to make the most of her ability rather than disability, competing in a range of sports from an early age. And the 12-year-old had faith in her own abilities. 

My father took me to the shooting range. First, it was archery for me, but then I did not have as much strength, perhaps shooting became a lot easier for me then. He motivated me and somehow that keeps me going today.

Prepping for the ultimate goal

Avani, way wiser beyond her years, possesses a sense of tranquility and yes, the aura is sure to rub off on you. Soaking up all the praise that has been crossing her way post her Tokyo Olympic qualification, she affirms, “I am confident of winning an Olympic medal next year. Hoping for the best!” Avani vaulted her way to a World Cup silver in July this year in the women’s 10m Air Rifle event, as several others of her ilk looked on wistfully from the sidelines. Earlier this year at the Al Ain World Cup, she became the first female shooter to have secured a Paralympic berth for India in the R6 mixed 50m Rifle Prone SH1 event. 

Also read: Para-shuttler Anand Kumar dreams of winning an Olympic medal at 41

Overcoming limitations

Having had to wade through a series of complications due to paralysis, her sheer eloquence in fostering a desire to excel is what sets the Jaipur teen apart. Para-athletes are most often cast as the freaks of sport, who reveal an existence outside the perceived norm of able-bodied elite athletes. The pressure mounts with every milestone that she crosses, but isn’t the quest to break down barriers is what makes her pursuits all the more worthwhile?

Initially, it was very difficult. I could not lift a rifle because it was too heavy for me. The accident left me paralysed. I lost my strength. It was tough for me to find a coach. In India, you don’t find too many para-coaches. Our techniques are different. Some people believe it is easier for us, but it is not. We are performing equally well in the international circuit. I believe, it is harder for us because we have to have mental strength. When you are a para-athlete, people start judging you. To live with a disability is a victory in itself.

‘Bindra inspired me in more ways than one’

Ask Avani who her favourite player is, and pat comes the reply, ‘Bindra, Abhinav Bindra’.  Staunchly believing that inspiration is all around for one to find, Avani adds, “The one person I have always looked up to is Abhinav Bindra for obvious reasons. I drew inspiration from his autobiography, amazed at how dedicated he was towards shooting. Then he went on to become the individual Olympic gold medallist.  also wanted to do something similar for my country.”

Para-athletes, most often relegated to the shadows in the country, have now begun to find themselves hog the limelight. They toil and deliver, with teens like Avani forging inspiration for athletes across the spectrum. 

Forget struggles, it’s time to hit the bull’s eye again! 

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