Lekhara has emerged as role model, proud of her: Malik
Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) President Deepa Malik on Friday lauded shooter Avani Lekhara, who created history by becoming the first Indian woman to win two Paralympic medals, saying the trailblazing athlete has emerged as a "role model" for the country's youngsters.
"She has risen above all the challenges. The way she (Lekhara) showed maturity to handle the pressure during competition, she has emerged as a role model and we are so proud of her,'' Mailk said at a virtual press conference, facilitated by official broadcasters Eurosport, after the 19-year-old scripted history.
''A gold and a bronze from the same Paralympics, people will have to work very hard to kind of reach that mark, she has set the benchmark so high and inspired so many with her performance, absolutely proud of her,'' said Malik who herself won a shot put silver in the 2016 Paralympics.
Lekhara on Friday became the first Indian woman to win two Paralympic medals by claiming the 50m Rifle 3 Position SH1 bronze to add to an unprecedented gold she had secured earlier in the ongoing Games here.
"There is great teamwork and kudos to various athletes who have given her the direction of sports. It clearly goes out to show that sport can be a huge medium for empowerment and making a mark for any person and especially for a girl, who became paralyzed at such a young age due to adversity in her life.'' The 19-year-old Lekhara, competing in her debut Games, qualified second for the final with a score of 1176, including 51 inner 10s.
In the fiercely contested finals, Lekhara totaled 445.9 to finish ahead of Ukraine's Iryna Shchetnik, who let slip her grip on the medal spot with a poor third shot of 9.9 in the elimination.
Lekhara had become the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic gold by claiming the top honors in the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event. That was also the first-ever shooting medal that India had won in the Games. Malik also praised the entire para-shooting contingent.
''I could see such a happy atmosphere out there in the team, amongst the shooters," Malik said.
The PCI chief also said that when she started as a para-athlete, she wanted to see such performances.
"Especially both the girls, who have won out here, Bhavana Patel scripted history in TT (table-tennis), Avani debuting in shooting with one gold and one bronze, this is totally a personal joy, because this is something I wanted to see when I started playing 15 years ago," she signed off.
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