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Avani Lekhara's gold medal is redemption for India's shooting performance in Olympics — Joydeep Karmakar
Former Olympian spoke to The Bridge and shared his thoughts on Avani Lekhara's historic gold-medal winning performance at the Tokyo Paralympics.
On Monday, the 19-year-old Avani Lekhara created history when she became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympics after dominating in the women's 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event in Tokyo, Japan.
The Jaipur-born shooter's final score of 249.6 was equal to the world record and a new Paralympic record.
Speaking of her success, former Olympian shooter Joydeep Karmakar feels elated following an unsatisfactory result by the Indian shooting team at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, Karmakar lent his perspective on the big win on Monday.
"This is the moment we were waiting for a long time. It's definitely a little bit of redemption from the shooting team's performance at the Olympics. This is simply phenomenal that Avani won a gold medal at the age of just 19. She met with an accident at the age of 11, and not only did she adopted to her new life, but in the last nine years, she became an expert in shooting. This is huge," says Karmakar.
He adds, "What is even more significant is that India is not known for good infrastructure in para sports. Even able-bodied shooters complain about the infrastructure here and have to overcome so many hurdles on their way to reach this stage. A para athlete, having that kind of hurdles, creates mental pressure in them. In Indian culture, many get taunted for their disability. So imagine how big a challenge Avani has overcome to attain this place."
Karmakar last met Lekhara in her hometown in Jaipur back in 2018 and he was utmost impressed by the 16-year-old back then. "I had visited Jaipur as the shooting coach appointed by the Rajasthan government. I spoke to Avani and suggested several tips during the interaction. I found her meticulously listening to whatever was being told, and she seemed very focused. I was quite confident about Avani's performance in this Paralympics," says Karmakar.
The shooter, who finished fourth in the 2012 London Olympics now runs his own academy across various parts in his native state in West Bengal. He emphasises that apart from the NRAI affiliated national centres across the country, many private academies with smaller steups have played a pivotal role in honing the talents of India's para shooters. But there is still a long way to go. "In big cities, there are good facilities for shooting. Government ranges set up in Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad are bigger and better. But smaller academies have a problem arranging for ramps for para shooters. Sometimes, even the basic amenities are not available. These facilities in smaller academies should improve only with proper government support, which could pave the way of more para shooters coming up from the grassroots," concludes Karmakar.