Greek Tragedy

On his return from Zagreb, world champion Abhinav Bindra, while answering one of the questions, said that he had shot 100 times better at the Athens Olympics than when he won the World Championship. It has been a mystery as to how Abhinav missed the Olympic medal, despite shooting close to his best. He said that he felt he was in the zone, and had released 10 good shots in the final, but was surprised by the resultant below-par score.

Abhinav had found out the reason and talked at length about it but in confidence, soon after the 2004 Olympics. Now that he is the world champion, it is appropriate to tell the world as to what happened at Athens.

Like at Zagreb, Abhinav had qualified for the Olympic final for the No. 3 lane with a 597. Two Chinese were ahead of him with 599 and 598. Zhu Qinan won the gold at Athens with a world and Olympic record of 702.7. Li Jie got the silver at 701.3 and Jozef Gonci of Slovakia the bronze at 697.4. Abhinav had the worst final of his career with a series of 9.4, 10.0, 10.0, 10.3, 9.8, 9.9, 8.8, 9.7, 9.6, 10.1 that added up to 97.6, and he ended up seventh with a 694.6. He had missed a 10 only three times in 60 shots, but was off that mark six times in the 10-shot final.

Over to Abhinav on what exactly happened at the `final' range at Athens, which was different from the ones where the qualifying rounds were held.

"Gaby (Buehlmann) coached me throughout my match and the final. Before the final she put my stuff in the lane. It is very crucial to stand parallel to the firing point. She found the spot where I had to stand. I shot 10 good shots, but probably got the worst result. Even if I try to shoot that bad, it is not possible.

Two days later, Valentina Turisini of Italy made the final in the women's 3-position event. Gaby coached her too and did the same thing as she did for me. Valentina also was placed on point three in the final. Gaby was very suspicious about this point. After my final, I had told her that my feet were slipping. So, this time she quickly went into position with Valentina's rifle. Exactly where I had stood, the floor was hollow. The concrete under the wooden floor had a hole like a ditch. She noticed this because the wooden tiles were bouncing. She immediately protested to the jury, David Parish. They were shocked. Valentina stood 60 centimetres to the left of the target and eventually won the silver.

The chief of the technical committee told Gaby that this was so bad that if they had noticed it after my competition they could have given me a reshoot. In Athens, there was a big protest on the wooden floor. In the main range they had removed the wooden floor days before the competition. Athens made me believe in destiny."

Well, at the World Championship, Abhinav beat the reigning Olympic champion by 1.2 points and the bronze medallist by 1.3 points, while the silver medallist ended up eighth, 3.4 points behind Abhinav.

Justice delayed, but not denied.

"It doesn't matter to me now. I can never get that medal back," said Abhinav.

Kamesh Srinivasan