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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Abhinav Bindra strikes gold at Beijing

How shooter Abhinav Bindra’s steely resolve wiped out 108 years of ignominy and brought us our first individual Olympic gold, reports Ajai Masand. Spl: Beijing Olympics

other Updated: Aug 12, 2008 10:04 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times

When Abhinav Bindra skipped the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, his detractors said his days as a competitive shooter were over. As the 25-year-old world champion showed them in Beijing on Monday, they weren’t.

<b1>Skipping Doha was — as it always has been for Bindra — part of a plan, one that had as its cornerstone a medal at the Olympics. Funded by his father — an affluent Chandigarh meat exporter who had constructed a 10-metre shooting range for him to practice in at home — Bindra fought his crippling lower back spasm with the help of the world’s best doctors.

He fought his confidence crisis with unorthodox measures — like climbing an eight-metre-high wall — suggested by his German coach, Uwe Riesterer. "He was under tremendous mental stress in the final leg of the preparations and in order to have a mind without fear, we enrolled him for special confidence-building sessions in Germany," his father AS Bindra said.

And on Tuesday, as he came from behind after trailing in six rounds, he fought back memories of how the wooden plank on which he took stance in Athens in 2004 creaked and shook and denied him what he rightfully thought was his four years ago.

"For me, life will go on as usual…,” Bindra said. But it must have been a proud moment for the man who won the world championship in Zagreb two years ago and became the fifth Indian to win an individual medal and the first to win a gold at the Olympics.

Of course, this is not, like all triumphs, a tale born of this one moment. Bindra’s is a story not merely of grit, talent and determination; it is a story of performing in the face of an indifferent system, of singlemindedly fixing targets and hitting them.

A student of Riverdale School in Dehradun, (“He was the best head boy we ever had,” his English teacher and school director Surjit Singh Ahluwalia said) and then Doon School (whose entrance examination he topped), Bindra did a degree in management studies by correspondence.

As a 14-year-old, he turned up to practice for the first time in a Mercedez Benz at the Karni Singh ranges in Tughlakabad — not something guaranteed to win friends. And he doesn’t have that many of them. Quiet and reserved, he sticks to his own group of friends, not all of them as wealthy as he is. “He is a man of few words and that goes against him,” said childhood friend and fellow shooter Shimon Sharif. “He is very composed and has nerves of steel. He communicates with very few and I am proud to be one of them.” No wonder, some of his teammates tease him as Constant Comatose.

"He is also an excellent painter," said Sharif, whom Bindra has bested at various national tournaments. "He excels at what he aims for."

(With inputs from Saurabh Duggal in Chandigarh and Utpal Parashar in Dehradun)