When Avani Lekhara celebrated her victory in the R2 women's 10m air rifle standing SH1 event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, it was a historic moment not only for the 19-year-old making her Games debut but also for the world's second most populous country.
Scoring a total of 249.6 points to match the world record, Lekhara became the first Indian female athlete to win a gold medal at a Paralympic Games. It was also the nation's first medal in the sport in the 45 years since its inclusion on the Paralympic programme.
To cap off her achievement, Lekhara also claimed bronze in the R8 women's 50m rifle 3 positions SH1 four days after her historic victory.
In recognition of her achievement, the young athlete was selected to carry India's flag at the Closing Ceremony of Tokyo 2020 and named Best Female Debut at the Paralympic Awards in December 2021. BBC News India also presented Lekhara with a Changemaker of the Year Award in 2022.
Lekhara was in a car accident at age 12, which resulted in paraplegia. She initially started shooting as a hobby but became more serious about the sport after winning a competition against able-bodied shooters at her school.
The event boosted her confidence, helped her to make new friends, and gave her a more positive outlook on life and her disability. Now the Paralympic champion and current world no.1 offers tips on how to start your own journey in the sport that transformed her life.
1. Safety first
Read and learn the rules and regulations of firearms safety, shooting Para sport regulations, and so forth, before you even hold a rifle.
2. Find a good coach
Find a trainer who understands your needs. Keep regular practice and maintain a logbook of your training.
3. Focus on body and mind
Do good physical and mental warm-up exercises before training to avoid injuries and to improve concentration.
4. Small goals
Set small goals on a daily basis that you can pursue and achieve, and celebrate them.
5. Enjoy the sport
Don’t run after scores or results. Live in the moment and remember why you started it.