Something very strange — bordering on the sinister, some say — happened to Abhinav Bindra while he was gunning for the gold at Beijing. But the ace Indian marksman still came out triumphant.
On August 11, minutes before the start of the final round of his 10m air rifle competition, when he fired his first shot in the official five-minute sighting time earmarked for practice, he was way off-target — scoring just 4.5.
He realised something had gone seriously wrong with the ‘sight’ of his weapon after having shot a superb qualification round.
But instead of losing concentration, the world champion remained calm, adjusted his ‘sight’ to get back his shot right on the target. And in the process he gave around 40 clicks to the ‘rear sight’ of the weapon and fired around 10 pellets to check whether he was hitting the bullseye or not.
Confirming this misalignment of the ‘rear sight’ just before the start of the finals, Abhinav’s personal mental trainer, Dr Amit Bhattacharjee, who was with him at the venue, said: “When Abhinav fired the first shot in the sighting time (practice time), it hit the target between the fourth and fifth rings. It is unthinkable of any shooter competing at this level to score 4.5 points. But he remained calm and corrected the angle (of his sight) and the end result is in front of you.”
When asked, Abhinav's father, A.S. said: “Yes, it happened and I also came to know about it through the media. But he remained focused and overcame all odds.”
For now, the blame game is on that someone not wanting him to win a medal was behind the sinister act. Reacting to this, secretary-general of the National Rifle Association of India said: “There is no point blaming anyone…how can this happen? Even if such a thing has happened, no Indian was there to do it. Only the shooter and his coach were there,” he said. “He did tell use later that his gun sight was altered.
Sethi also said that there was no point raking up a controversy. “Shooters themselves need to be more careful and take care of their guns.”
Even national shooting coach Sunny Thomas dismissed it. “It couldn’t have happened in the dressing room. It might have been an accident.
Or, may be something happened in the equipment room where every player has to deposit his/her gun.”
Abhinav’s Rifle Problem
The air rifle has a rear sight and a fore sight through which the shooter aims.
The rear sight can be adjusted to a shooters' own setting generally termed as zeroing.
The rear sight has two small round clicking systems — one on the top and the other on the side — which can be adjusted in all directions. The top one is used to adjust shots Up and Down, while the side one is used to move the shots Right or Left.
A marksman adjusts the rear sight after shooting a few pellets in the sighters. If the shots go in a particular direction, the marksman clicks accordingly to set the rear sight in order to get the shots in the centre. To move the shot one ring inside, a shooter has to give 3 clicks on the rear sight in the same direction as that of the shots.
After the qualification round, Abhinav’s rifle was left unattended and it’s possible that someone used the opportunity to give multiple clicks — the clicking system is so smooth and delicate that it just takes a second to give around 10 clicks.