The medal was held with delicate hands, but the smile lacked softness. Battle-weary Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra finally came face-to-face with the media and the bitterness of the previous night — when he arrived in the wee hours and gave the media a slip — was forgotten in a jiffy.
Sitting on the podium with the familiar deadpan expression, the bespectacled champion fielded questions with clinical precision as they flew thick and fast.
Flanked by two empty chairs, the champion spoke up and there was silence. “It’s an overwhelming experience and I am both nervous and proud of this moment,” said the 25-year-old, his clean-shaven face clearly betraying the five days of sleeplessness following the historic achievement.
“The competition was fierce but I was prepared for it as it was my third Olympics…It’s been a long journey for me and I’ve really worked hard for it,” said the champion as his father A.S Bindra gave him an approving glance from the front row with his wife and Bindra’s first coach, Col J.S Dhillon.
“When I went to Beijing, there was nothing more I could have done to my mind and body… I am grateful to my coaches and my mental trainer Dr Amit Bhattacharjee who has been my travel partner for all these 12 years of my journey,” he said.
“Hopefully, my medal will bring about a positive change in the management of Indian sport and the mindset of the people.”
On a personal front, Bindra said that after reaching the pinnacle, there was a feeling of emptiness. “You’ve climbed a mountain, there’s nothing more to achieve; nothing left,” he said philosophically, adding he could take a long break from the sport to enjoy the finer things in life.
Bindra lamented the lack of seriousness for Olympic sport in the country. “If you ask me to compare China and India, there’s a huge difference. Every country has a serious Olympic programme. Unfortunately we do not have one.”
After the interaction, it was time for Bindra to his next destination --- a meeting with a top leader. He exited through the back door, like he did the previous night at the airport.
But this time no one was complaining. Bindra had made their day.