It was more than a decade-and-a-half back, when, as a 15-year-old, Abhinav Bindra, went for his first Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. In fact, he was the only Indian in the 10m air rifle event at the Games.
Twelve years later --- in his fourth Commonwealth Games --- Bindra is no kid on the block. He would be stepping into the ring as an Olympic champion. On Monday, all eyes were on him as he went about his paces at the 10m range in the Karni Singh complex.
Though, he has not been in great form, which also includes a none-too-impressive performance at the World Championships in Munich recently, the Chandigarh shooter can up his performance anytime, which can only be bad news for his competitors.
Time and again, he has said that past performances don't matter, nor do world rankings, and that performance on the particular day is what it takes to grab gold. A media shy boy once, he is now a professional at handling the spotlight.
As Indian shooters start their campaign at the Games on Tuesday morning, there would be no better way to get going than Bindra pairing with world record holder in 10m air rifle, Gagan Narang, in the pairs (team) event.
Narang too has come of age from the day he first cornered glory at the Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad in 2003. Numerous World Cup titles, World Championship bronze medal this year and a world record in 10m has made him the most consistent and formidable marksman in the world.
The consistency would, hopefully, be on display again.
Three more pairs events are lined up on Tuesday --- men's 50m free pistol (Deepak Sharma & Omkar Singh), women's 25m sports pistol (Anisa Khan, Rahi Sarnobat) and 50m rifle 3-position (Tejaswini Sawant & Lajja Gauswami), and India would be gunning for a clean sweep, given the strong line-up.
The pairs event will then set the stage for the biggest and best of all shooting events on Wednesday, with the fierce rivalry between Bindra and Narang coming to the fore, when the individual 10m championship is decided.
‘The two champions are expected to have a very close final round (on Wednesday) and hopefully one of them will shoot gold. The rest of the events can wait. This will be the biggest of them all, hopefully,’ summed up Shimon Sharif, an international rifle marksman, who has followed their progress closely.
Such has been their stranglehold on the event that there are very few who can break their supremacy here.