Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, retired from international shooting on Sunday. At a function organised by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) in Faridabad, Bindra drew the curtains on an illustrious international career that spanned the best part of two decades.
The sharpshooter, known for his meticulous planning while preparing for competitions, has won everything possible in his pet event — the 10m air rifle. From multiple victories at World Cup events to continental and Commonwealth Games gold medals, Bindra’s exploits have elevated the profile of shooting in the country in the last decade or so.
Here are the highlights of an international career that began in 1998, when, at 15, he became the youngest participant in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Bronze at the 2001 Munich World Cup
After he made the news in 1998, Bindra’s performances improved steadily, and, after three years, he made a mark on the big stage by winning bronze in the 2001 Munich World Cup. He also set a junior world record score of 597 out of 600 in the qualification round at the World Cup. The bronze was Bindra’s first major international medal and was a sign of big things to follow.
Gold at the 2006 World Championship in Zagreb
The critics had plenty to say after Bindra had an ordinary Olympic debut in Athens. But he silenced the naysayers a couple of years later by winning the 10m air rifle gold at the Zagreb World Championships. Throughout the tournament, Bindra was also troubled by a back injury and that made his gold extra special. With the win, he became India’s first shooting world champion in the senior category.
Gold in the 2014 Glasgow CWG:
In what was his last Commonwealth Games (CWG) appearance, Bindra won gold. His previous gold-medal win at the CWG was in the 2002 edition in Manchester, where he won Gold in the pairs event. Bindra also won silver in the individual event in Manchester. At the 2006 CWG in Melbourne, he won the gold in the pairs event and a bronze in the singles.
At home in the 2010 CWG, where Bindra was the flag-bearer for the Indian contingent during the opening ceremony, he along with Gagan Narang set a Games record in the 10m air rifle pair’s event to win India’s first gold. Bindra had to settle for silver in the individual event.
Gold in the 2012 Asian Championships in Doha: With the Chinese and Korean shooters dominating the sport on the world stage, Bindra’s victories and medals at the Asian competitions were as tightly contested as his medals in World Cups. He, however, was unlucky to miss out on a couple of Asian Games due to injuries. His best in continental competitions came when he won gold in the 10-metre air rifle event at the 12th Asian Shooting Championships in Doha, Qatar.
In his last Asian Games in Busan, he clinched two bronze medals for India. It was for the first time that Bindra won an individual medal in the Asian Games. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, he won a silver medal in the team event.
Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics:
Bindra won the 10m air rifle gold in Beijing, becoming the first Indian athlete to win an individual event at the Games, and the first Indian to hold an Olympic and world title simultaneously. The gold was India’s first in 28 years, since the men’s hockey team won at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Bindra narrowly missed another medal at the Games, when he lost in the bronze-medal shootout at the Rio Olympics.