Golden eye
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Golden eye

Beijing Games gold-medallist Abhinav Bindra is geared up for an encore and a slice of history, says Saurabh Duggal.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2012 14:35 IST
Saurabh Duggal.
Saurabh Duggal.
Hindustan Times

In his autobiography, 'A Shot At History', Abhinav Bindra writes that he once soled his shoes with rubber from Ferrari tyres because he thought it would help. He would also wake up at 3am to practice at his range at home if an idea struck him.

The Beijing Olympic Games gold-medallist was born with a silver spoon. Perhaps, he would still be a millionaire had he joined his father's business and not done atrocious things like soling his shoes with the tyres of the iconic sports car. But, probably, he didn't want to lord over his dad's assets and instead wanted to show the world he had an identity of his own. He wasn't happy with the silver spoon; he wanted the golden aura.

Charting his destiny
If the World championship gold at Zagreb in 2006 - a first for the country - was an indication that the "all-consuming" desire was nearing its goal, the gold at Beijing fortified the belief that an obsession could move mountains. Indeed, it was a colossal task for the young lad from Zirakpur, who has battled not just the debilitating system but also a distressing back problem, which threatened to finish his career after the Zagreb triumph.

That he stood triumphant in Beijing with a clenched fist and nervous smile, was a result of hundreds of physiotherapy sessions in India and abroad, a strict regimen - which would put the staunchest of saints to shame - and unstinted backing of his parents and support staff.

To top it all, it was the killer instinct, which we Indians lack. Few would probably have taken him seriously when Bindra said a couple of months before the Beijing Olympics that he was very clear" about his goal. "I will not be going to the Games for the sake of participation."

While the naïve dismissed his comments as just another burble from someone wanting publicity before the quadrennial Games, the discerning had seen it coming. He was inching closer to the podium, despite two failed attempts - in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.

"I have by my side the credit of participating in two Games and the experience should be more than enough to earn me an Olympian's tag. My sole aim will be to win an Olympic medal and I will go to Beijing only if I feel I can make it to the podium," Bindra had told HT before the 2008 Games.

The glorious day dawned and, despite the calibration of his rifle curiously 'changing' just before the finals, Bindra stayed calm to clinch gold.

It's Olympic time again and, while the world's best will converge to proclaim their supremacy, Bindra will be on a mission even higher than before. The champion will be defending his Olympic title and if he tastes success, he would be the first marksman in the world to do so.

Pain, a companion
Uncertainty and Bindra have been strange bedfellows. On his arrival from Zagreb after the World championship triumph, the celebrations at the IGI airport were cut short and an enervated Bindra was quickly whisked away in a swanky car by his parents. Something was amiss, the champion looked pale and the smile was laboured. The back spasm, which had been troubling him for some time, was killing him. Two years before the Games, doubts about his Beijing participation loomed large.

But conquering pain and fear have been the champion's forte. Going for holistic treatment, rather than complicated surgical procedure, his career was back on track after almost a year and he was experimenting with all sorts of things, including commando training and bungee jumping, to steel himself.

Again, there was a crisis of confidence after the Beijing triumph and the champ could not find the motivation to put in endless hours in his personal range, alone. "After Beijing, I was not sure if I would continue. That makes me all the more happy to qualify for the 2012 Olympics," Bindra had said after achieving the qualification mark.

New avatar
He reinvented himself; co-authored the world's best coaching book on rifle shooting, 'Ways Of The Rifle' with his German coach and wrote an autobiography, 'A Shot At History', sat in the cockpit of a Sukhoi fighter and practiced bio-mechanics.

"I am not a person with short-term goals. If I am doing something, I must be having some big plans and very much into it for achieving the target. I am shooting not for the sake of doing it or for relaxation. I am doing it again because I have some plan and want to prove my mettle," Bindra had said recently.

"Before Beijing, winning an Olympic gold was his aim and now doing it again in London is his desire," says father, AS Bindra.

Away from the muck
His uninterrupted training in Germany, away from the highly-vitiated and petty scenario back home, is another reason why Bindra has surged ahead of the rest. "When I was preparing for Beijing, my coaches would do varied things keeping in mind the worst-case scenarios in competition. They would suddenly switch off the lights for a short interval to break my momentum and concentration. They would suddenly appear behind me with cameras and blind me with flashlights," Bindra had said.

That all these methods steeled him for the 'ultimate fight' was in evidence when he was down with high fever during the Asian championships at Qatar in January this year and still went on to clinch gold.

No respite
While his back problem is a thing of the past, the champion continues to be plagued by health issues due to excessive training. "When I recollect all that, I marvel how we've come this far," says Dr Amit Bhattacharjee, Bindra's mental trainer.

No less than a superhuman effort. But Bindra is India's Superman.

First Published: Jun 28, 2012 23:32 IST