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FPJ Exclusive: Double delight for shooter Avani Lekhara; record 11 recommended for Khel Ratna

10:08 PM Oct 27, 2021 | Joe Williams

It was a day of double delight for the shooter Avani Lekhara. She graduated to the fourth semester of her LLB studies and on the same day, she was recommended for the Khel Ratna Award.

The Jaipur girl had scripted history at the Tokyo Paralympics when she won the gold medal 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event.

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"I am delighted and the award is for all the people around me, who made it happen," said Lekhara while talking to Free Press Journal on Wednesday. The 19-year-old sustained injuries to her spinal cord in a car accident in 2012.

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"It has been a long journey and I am happy my hard work has paid off. My parents, coaches, and all the rest who have helped me some way in my venture.”

Lakhera is the fourth Indian athlete to win a Paralympics gold after swimmer Murlikant Petkar (1972), javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia (2004 and 2016) and high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu (2016).

"Yes I had applied for the Arjuna award, I am happy I have been considered by Khel Ratna Award. I have no regrets,” said the shooter who is back at the range and has started her practice.

Meanwhile, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who became only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games, and silver medal-winning wrestler Ravi Dahiya were also recommended for the Khel Ratna as an unprecedented 11 athletes were selected for the country's highest sporting honour.

Boxer Lovlina Borgohain, who won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, seasoned hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh and Test and ODI skipper of the women's team, Mithali Raj, were also recommended for the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna by the selection committee.

Iconic Sunil Chhetri also became the country's first footballer to be selected for the honour.

Last year, five athletes were picked for the award while four were selected after the 2016 Rio Games.

The announcement of the national sports awards was delayed in order to consider the performance of the para-athletes in the Tokyo Paralympics (August 24 to September 5).

Besides Lekhara, the other who have been considered for the award are Manish Narwal, javelin thrower Sumit Antil and shuttlers Pramod Bhagat and Krishna Nagar, who all have won a gold each in the Tokyo Paralympics.

The committee also picked 35 athletes for the Arjuna award, eight more than last year's number of awardees.

Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, para TT player Bhavina Patel, para shuttler Suhas Yathiraj and high jumper Nishad Kumar are among those selected for the Arjuna award.

Members of the men's hockey team that won a historic bronze in the Olympics will also receive Arjuna award.

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