The first woman to win a gold medal in Olympic or Paralympic Games, Avani Lekhara on Thursday added more glitter to her gold as she won the Best Female Debut award in the 2021 Paralympic Sports Awards announced in a virtual ceremony.
Avani this year became the first-ever female Paralympic gold medallist from India. The 19-year-old broke the Paralympic record and equalled the World record in the women’s 10m SH1 air rifle standing final. She also won bronze in the women’s 50m SH1 air rifle standing event to become the first Indian female to win two medals in the Paralympics. It was also India’s first Paralympic medal in shooting.
“It’s an honour for me to win this award. The focus was always on giving my best shot, bringing home medals for my country, and showing that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and passion.
“I went there, and I just thought ‘take one shot at a time’, and that’s what I did. Just keeping my focus on the process, I was able to win a gold medal for my country,” said Avani after receiving the award.
Avani is the first Indian female sportsperson to be given the award that recognises achievements from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games across seven categories: Best Female, Best Male, Best Female Debut, Best Male Debut, Best Team, Best Official and BP Courage Award.
Avani, who was left completely paraplegia at the age of 11 following a car accident in 2015, began shooting after being inspired by former Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra and has since won several national and international titles. On September 3, 2021, she became the first Indian female Paralympian to win two medals in Paralympics history after claiming bronze in women’s 50m air rifle standing event.
She is currently coached by Indian shooter Suma Shirur. Her father encouraged her to join sports, training in archery but moved to shooting in which she found her true passion. She currently studies Law in Jaipur.
Dutch wheelchair tennis player Diede de Groot and Swiss wheelchair Racer Marcel Hug are among the winners of the 2021 Paralympic Sport Awards as announced by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on 16 December.
The awards recognise achievements from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games across seven categories: Best Female, Best Male, Best Female Debut, Best Male Debut, Best Team, Best Official, and bp Courage Award.
De Groot won the Best Female category after taking the Tokyo 2020 women’s singles and doubles titles without dropping a set in either competition. She became the first Wheelchair Tennis player to complete the calendar Golden Slam (winning all four Grand Slam titles and the Paralympic gold medal).
Hug took the Best Male award. He made a gold sweep in all four events — 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m, and the marathon — in the highly competitive T54 Wheelchair Racing class. The ‘Silver Bullet’ in the process also set a new World record in the 1,500m and a Paralympic Record in the 5,000m heats.
The British Wheelchair Rugby team bagged the Best Team award.
Great Britain’s gold medal win was historic in many ways: first Wheelchair Rugby gold for GB at a World or Paralympic level; first European team to make the gold medal match; first Paralympic gold for GB in a team sport; and Kylie Grimes became the first woman to win Paralympic gold in the history of the sport.