Man with a golden gun

Revisiting Sportstar Weekly's cover story for Abhinav Bindra’s Olympic shooting Gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

"I have just been punching holes in a black paper for the last 10 years, nothing else," was Bindra's cheeky reply after the medal ceremony.   -  Getty Images

I am happy and thrilled. But it is tough to describe the moment in words. I had shot better in Athens. But, today was my day. It went my way. That is sport.

- ABHINAV BINDRA

 

Champions strike, at the moment of reckoning! There is never a better moment to strike than in the Olympics, the ultimate stage in the world of sports. It is every champion's aspiration to be on the podium at the Games.

We believed that we did not have a champion to make us proud, when the whole world was watching us. Despite best attempts, no Indian could break the shackles and we, as a nation, have struggled to find that elusive Olympic gold medal for long.

The hockey gold we won in 1980 was becoming a distant memory. The longing was for a gold medal. We were showing signs of improvement; Indian sport was taking slow but sure steps forward. Like when Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won independent India's first ever individual silver medal in Athens in 2004.

In Pictures: When India celebrated Abhinav Bindra’s Gold medal

We now have an Olympic champion. A shooter who nursed his hunger for a gold medal at the Games and was simply not satisfied to be the world champion in air rifle.

Champion Abhinav Bindra was level with Henri Hakkinen going into the final shot. He then revealed nerves of steel to come up with his best shot of the event, a 10.8 as against a maximum possible 10.9.

The victory would not have tasted so great had it not been for the manner in which the champion struck the final blow - it left the defending champion, Zhu Qinan of China, in a flood of tears, as he clutched the silver medal, ahead of Henri Hakkinen of Finland, who had actually tied with Abhinav going into the final shot but ended up with the bronze.

Sportstar Weekly cover page - August 16, 2008


 

Abhinav's gold should rank as one of the greatest moments in Indian sport.
 

After winning the 10m air rifle event, Abhinav was still in the zone. Perhaps, the magnitude of the achievement had not sunk in by then. Except for pumping his fist in the air and accepting a warm hug from his coach Gaby Buehlmann of Switzerland, who patted his shoulder and said, "you are the champion, man", Abhinav did not show any emotion.

"I am happy and thrilled. But it is tough to describe the moment in words," said Abhinav later.

"I had shot better in Athens. But, today was my day. It went my way. That is sport," he said quite philosophically.

Abhinav had won the World Championship in Zagreb in 2006 with a bad back which had to be treated eventually. This prevented him from competing in the Asian Games in Doha.

He, however, did not bother about the lesser events. For him, the Olympic gold was the prime target.
A multi-millionaire who lives in a farm house that resembles a castle in Chandigarh, Abhinav did not spare a single detail in his preparation for the Olympics. He practised for endless hours at his private range at home, fine-tuning his technique. He also had help from his coach Gaby in Germany.

Also Read: A decade old Olympic gold by Abhinav Bindra continues to inspire

After the medals ceremony in Beijing, when Abhinav was asked what he did for a living, the 25-year-old shooter replied cheekily, "I have just been punching holes in a black paper for the last 10 years, nothing else."

From missing the final by one point in the 2000 Sydney Games to finishing seventh in Athens in 2004 to winning the gold in Beijing in a breathtaking fashion - he went into the final with a two-point deficit - it has been a splendid journey for Abhinav.

He has shown the discipline, the intelligence and has worked hard to achieve what he had set out to do at a young age.

Abhinav's gold-winning effort is a big boost to not just Indian shooting, but to Indian sport as a whole.
Shooting is one Olympic sport in which India has been doing well for nearly a decade and a half, right from the time when Jaspal Rana captured the individual gold in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima.

"Congratulations to Abhinav. He has done us all proud. I have always maintained that somebody or the other shines in a good team. We have been improving from bronze in 1996 and 2000 to silver in 2004. We had to move forward. Had we gone back, it would have affected the Olympic sport. The youngsters would have suffered. Now that we have one gold, it will be an encore," said Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who won the silver medal in Athens.

Of course, Rathore's silver in the 2004 Olympics boosted the standard of shooting in India so much that in the next two years the country had two world champions in Abhinav and Manavjit Singh Sandhu.

When the big guns failed to strike in the last Asian Games, the forgotten hero, Jaspal Rana, shed his lethargy to pull off three gold medals in Doha, one of them with a world record.

Nothing succeeds like success. The champions have taken turns to strike in Indian shooting. It has helped build confidence among the Indian shooters.

History will always remember Abhinav Bindra as the first to win an individual Olympic gold medal for independent India. And more importantly, his Beijing effort is bound to inspire the younger generation to take up shooting seriously as a sport.

Some champions are path-breakers. Abhinav, for sure, has opened new avenues for Indian sport.