After Abhinav Bindra gave India its first individual Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there was a marked improvement in infrastructure, notable being the manifold increase in electronic targets at ranges.
The results were evident at the London Olympics — a silver and bronze. At Rio, our shooters failed to make the podium, but Abhinav was in the fray till the last shot and missed bronze by a whisker while Jitu Rai also made the finals.
When Abhinav started shooting in 1995, the only range with facilities for the 10m air rifle was the Karni Singh Shooting Range, which was 250km from Chandigarh, Abhinav’s home.
So, his father AS Bindra constructed a range as per international standards in the backyard of the house. “Infrastructure is must to excel in sports. As I had the resources, I built an indoor range so that Abhinav could train with the best facilities and time could be saved on travel. It was difficult to find shops where we could refill cylinders, required in shooting. So I imported a machine from Germany,” said Bindra.
“After the 1998 Commonwealth Games, where Abhinav was the youngest participant at 15, we realised that competing in a few international tournaments in a year was not enough to win medals at the world arena, so, he started competing on the European circuit. There was no support from the government. Since Abinav was just 16, his mother accompanied him. Whatever international exposure he got before the 2000 Sydney Olympics was at no cost to the government.”
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Abhinav made the finals and finished seventh. Two years later, he won the country’s first World Championship gold.
“While preparing for Athens, his foreign coach told us that he needed to work on hydrotherapy, and for this a swimming pool was required, and I got it constructed in the house. It was ready after the 2004 Olympics and he used it to prepare for the 2006 World Championship and 2008 Beijing Olympics,” recalled the proud father.
“Before every Olympics, the flooring of the shooting range was changed to go with the Games. Even the lighting and colour of the walls were changed so that he could get the feel of training at an Olympic range. We also got world-class biomechanics equipment,” he added.
Apart from Abhinav’s hard work and determination, his parents also contributed towards the country’s first individual Olympic gold.
“I had the money, so I spent it to make Abhinav a world-class shooter. But there are many parents who cannot afford to do so. If we need an Olympic champion, the government should create world-class infrastructure, and provide top support staff from the beginning. The global powerhouses are doing a lot on scientific backup for their sportspersons while we totally ignore this important facet,” said Bindra senior.