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Tokyo Paralympics 2020: Indian athletes make history

Indian athletes have put their best-ever performance in the history of Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

They won five medals on Monday, including two golds, taking the country’s tally of medals to eight.

Their previous best performance was at the 2016 Rio Games, when the contingent won four medals – two golds, one silver and one bronze.

Shooter Avani Lekhara created sporting history after becoming the first Indian woman to win a Paralympics gold medal.

The 19-year-old won with an impressive score of 149.6 in the final event of women’s 10m air rifle standing at Tokyo on Monday. With this, Lekhara has set a new Paralympic record and has also equalled the world record.

A second gold came from Sumit Antil who registered a massive 68.55m in javelin throw to beat his own world record.

Earlier in the day, javelin throwers Devendra Jhajharia won silver and Sundar Singh Gurjar won bronze. In men’s discus throw, Yogesh Kathuniya won silver.

Many in India have taken to Twitter to praise the athletes’ stellar performances.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “truly special moment for Indian sports”.

Here’s a look at some of the winners from this year:

Avani Lekhara

Currently ranked fifth in the women’s 10m air rifle standing, Tokyo is Lekhara’s maiden appearance at the Paralympic Games.

Lekhara has a chance to win more medals as she will be competing in three other events.

A law student in the northern state of Rajasthan, she was paralysed below her waist in 2012 after a major car accident. She was 11 at that time.

It was her father who encouraged her to take up sports. The 19-year-old is also trained in archery, though shooting turned out to be her ultimate calling.

According to reports, she took up up the sport after reading Abhinav Bindra’s, who is India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, autobiography.

Yogesh Kathuniya

Yogesh Kathuniya won a silver in the men’s F56 discus throw event with a distance of 44.38m.

The 24 year-old finished behind Brazil’s Claudiney Batista dos Santos, who set a new Paralympic record with a throw of 45.59m.

Son of an army officer, Kathuniya suffered a paralytic attack at the age of eight which left him with coordination impairments in his limbs.

In 2020, he set a world record of 45.18m to win gold at the Para-athletics Grand Prix in Berlin, which was his first international event.

Kathuniya said he felt “amazing” after winning the silver, even though the journey was far from easy.

The 24-year-old said he had to train for the Tokyo Games without a coach. “In India there was a six month lockdown so every stadium was closed. When I could return to the stadium on a daily basis, I had to practice by myself,” he told ESPN.

Bhavina Patel

Indian table tennis player Bhavina Patel won a historic silver medal in Tokyo, becoming the second Indian female athlete after Deepa Malik to achieve the feat.

She is also the first table tennis player ever to win a medal at the Paralympics for India.

Patel, who was diagnosed with polio when she was 12 months old, lost to world No.1 Chinese paddler Ying Zhou in the women’s singles class 4 final.

The 34-year-old said she was “extremely delighted” to win a medal but also a “a bit disappointed” that she got nervous.

However, she said she hoped her performance would help change the perception towards disabled people. “What I went through growing up, I don’t want the next generation of people with disability to suffer,” she said.

India is not known for being friendly towards the disabled. The community is often stigmatised and ignored. And most public places still lack basic facilities to help them in everyday life.

Nishad Kumar

Nishad Kumar claimed a silver in the men’s high jump.

The 21-year-old cleared 2.06m on his second attempt to equal his own Asian record. He shares silver with American athlete Dallas Wise.

Son of a farmer in a small Himalayan town in Himachal Pradesh state, Kumar lost his right hand at the age of eight. He was at his father’s farm, when a grass-cutting machine accidentally ran over his arm.

He had also contracted Covid-19 earlier this year while training for the Games.

Source: BBC, Image: Reuters