Abhinav Bindra gave the good news at the end: that he is hugely optimistic about sport in India. So much so that he hopes his gold medal will be a trigger for greater glory.
And it is not because “athletes are conditioned to hope.” “I see a change in attitude. It is now about bringing it all together,” said Bindra.
Asked about India’s medal chances in 2020, Bindra said for the Tokyo Olympics, we shouldn’t change too much, but focus on better implementation.
But if, as a people, India aspires for sporting excellence, it needs to create an environment where most of its elite athletes can train at home, he said.
“Long-term changes can be thought of for 2024, 2028 and beyond but for that we must start now,” he said.
In a sharp suit and with all his understated elegance, Bindra was speaking about ‘The Future of High Performance Sports in India’ at the first Routledge Sports Lecture at the Fanattic Sports Museum here on Saturday.
Most of the lecture was about the rigours of a high performance athlete based on his own experience. Experience that has won him 180 medals including the only individual Olympic gold for India.
Among the things he had to do was get a jaw splint put in, a sort of denture, for better body balance. “Misalignment of the jaw can lead to the misalignment of the body,” said Bindra. The body needs as much fine-tuning as the rifle, he said.
A high performance athlete is one who aims to be perfect on an imperfect day, said Bindra. And to that end, after the “loose tile” episode in Athens 2004, Bindra said he had deliberately trained in adverse conditions such as “low light, bright light, painted walls” among others.
That taught him adaptability, a key ingredient to being successful at an Olympic final “where the stress makes you feel like a two-year old”. The others are balance and hunger.
“It’s about staying in the moment, letting the body take over with no interference from the mind. I had announced Rio would be my last Olympics but till the last shot, I didn’t feel my career was over,” said Bindra.
“All this perhaps makes a .1 % difference but you know that sometimes makes the difference between an Olympic medal and nothing.”