Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sports

Harvinder Singh wins bronze, India’s first archery medal in Paralympics

Harvinder Singh

TOKYO, September 3: Harvinder Singh on Friday notched up India’s first ever archery medal in the Paralympics, holding his nerves to down Kim Min Su of Korea in a thrilling shoot-off for the men’s individual recurve bronze in the ongoing Games.


World No.23 Singh was the first athlete from India to win a gold medal at a major para competition in the 2018 Asian Games.
An economics scholar from the Punjabi University, Patiala, Singh collected three shoot-off wins on the day starting with his triumphs in the opening rounds.
In the bronze playoff, the 31-year-old was leading 5-3 before the Kroean clinched the fifth set shooting a perfect 10 to force a shoot-off where the Indian responded in style shooting a perfect 10 against Kim’s 8 for a 6-5 (26-24, 27-29, 28-25, 25-25, 26-27) (10-8) win.
In the semifinals, Singh lost to world number 10 Kevin Mather of the USA 6-4 in an intense five-setter (25-28, 24-24, 25-25, 25-24, 24-26).
Singh, who hails from a small village Guhla Cheeka near Kaithal in Haryana, was stretched to the fullest in the first two rounds, but he showed tremendous resilience to overcome his fancied opponents via shoot-offs.
In the first round of 32, Singh squandered a 4-0 lead against Stefano Travisani after shooting a 7 in the third set as his Italian rival made it 5-5 (27-24, 26-22, 26-27, 25-25, 25-27) to force a shoot-off.
Singh clinched the issue — 6-5 (10-7) — in style, shooting a perfect 10 in the tie-breaker as his rival managed just a 7.
In the last-16, Singh pipped former world number one Bato Tsydendorzhiev of Russia, once again by the thinnest of margins 6-5 (8-7).
Singh effected a spectacular turnaround from 0-4 down to bring the match on an even keel 5-5 (26-28, 23-26, 29-26, 23-21, 28-28) and force a shoot-off where he edged out his Russian opponent 8-7.
In the quarters, Singh swept aside 49-year-old three-time Paralympian Maik Szarszewski of Germany 6-2 (25-21, 28-23, 25-28, 26-23) dropping just one set.
Hailing from a middle-class farming family, Singh had dengue when he was just one-and-half years old and a local doctor administered him an injection that had an adverse effect and his legs stopped working properly.
Legend at 19: Avani Lekhara becomes first Indian woman to win 2 Paralympic medals
Trailblazing shooter Avani 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.
The 19-year-old Lekhara, competing in her debut Games, qualified second for the event with a score of 1176, including 51 inner 10s.
In the fiercely contested finals, Lekhara totalled 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 honours in the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event. That was also the first ever shooting medal that India had won in the Games.
“It was a tough final but I’m happy to have made it into bronze. I could have done better than this. It’s just what finals do to you,” Lekhara said about her performance.
“It is an amazing experience to win two medals in my first Paralympic Games. These two are my pet events. I was really working hard for these two for so many months. I gave my 100 per cent in the last shot.”
“There are a lot of things on which I have to work, and I will definitely do better than this next time. There were a lot of distractions but I gave my 100 per cent to this,” she added, referring to the celebrations that followed her gold medal.
The Jaipur-based shooter, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2012 rendering her immobile, had fired a world record equalling total of 249.6, which was also a new Paralympic record.
Prior to her, Joginder Singh Sodhi was the lone Indian to win multiple medals in the same edition of the Games when he fetched one silver and two bronze medals in the 1984 Paralympics.
His silver came in shot put, while the two bronze medals were won in discus and javelin throw.
Javelin thrower Devendra Jhajharia is the other multiple Paralympic medallist but all his three medals (two gold and a silver) have come in different editions of the Games.
The gold in Friday’s event was claimed by China’s Zhang Cuiping with a new Games record of 457.9, while German Natascha Hiltrop took the silver with a 457.1 in the final.
Athletes in SH1 Rifle have an impairment in their legs, for example amputations or paraplegia. Some athletes compete in a seated position, while others compete in a standing position.
Lekhara is not done yet and will next be seen in the mixed 50m rifle prone SH1 event also featuring Deepak and Siddhartha Babu.
She started shooting on the insistence of her father in 2015 at a Jaipur shooting range.
“She was angry at her condition and hardly had a desire to talk to anyone. For a change, I used to take her to JDA shooting range in Jagatpura, Jaipur where she developed interest in shooting,” her father Praveen Lekhara had told PTI after the gold medal win in 10m air rifle competition.
The youngster was also inspired by Olympic gold-medallist rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra after reading his autobiography, which was a gift from her father.
A student of law, Lekhara made her debut for India in 2017 World Cup in Al Ain, UAE.


In the men’s event 50m Rifle 3P, Deepak failed to qualify for the finals after finishing 18th with a score of 1114. (PTI)

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