Dubai: Indian Para-Shooter Avani Lekhara won Best Female Debut award with Dutch wheelchair tennis player Diede de Groot and Swiss wheelchair runner Marcel Hug among the winners of the 2021 Paralympic Sport Awards, as announced by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on December 16.
The awards recognize the achievements of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in seven categories: best woman, best man, best female debut, best male debut, best team, best official and bp Courage award.
Lekhara became the first female Indian Paralympic gold medalist. The 19-year-old broke the Paralympic record and tied the world record for the women’s 10-meter SH1 air rifle. She also won bronze in the women’s 50-meter SH1 standing air rifle to become the first Indian woman to win two Paralympic Games medals. It was also India’s first Paralympic medal in shooting.
âIt is an honor for me to win this award. The goal has always been to give my best, to bring home medals for my country and to show that anything is possible with hard work, dedication and passion.
âI went there and thought ‘take one photo at a time’, and that’s what I did. By staying focused on the process, I was able to win a gold medal for my country.
De Groot won the Best Woman category after winning the Tokyo 2020 women’s singles and doubles titles without losing a set in either competition. She became the first wheelchair tennis player to complete the Golden Slam calendar (winning all four Grand Slam titles and the Paralympic gold medal).
âThe release of all the pressure, all the hard work, all the tears that went into itâ¦ It’s a huge amount of release you get, of joy. It was very special, âsaid a jubilant de Groot.
Hug won the award for best man. He won gold in all four events – 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meters and the marathon – in the very competitive T54 wheelchair racing category. The âSilver Ballâ also set a new world record in the 1,500-meter and a Paralympic record in the 5,000-meter playoffs.
A delighted Hug said, âI just want to thank you for this award. For me it’s a great honor, it was just an amazing year for me with the Tokyo Paralympics which were amazing.
“It has been a very difficult year with Covid-19, but it was a big extra effort this year to make all of these events possible, so thank you.”
The British wheelchair rugby team took home the award for best team, while Adam Peska of the Czech Republic took home the men’s debut award. Peska won gold in Boccia in the individual BC3 final at Tokyo 2020. He managed to win all of his matches and took gold with a tiebreaker against Greek legend Gregorios Polychronidis.
âIt was one of the best feelings of my athletic career. To compete in the Paralympic Games was one of my biggest dreams.
The Best Official Award went to German Dr Anja Hirschmueller and the bp Courage Award was won by Viktoriya Potapova of the Russian Paralympic Committee, who won bronze in judo in women – 48 kg at Tokyo 2020.