'Bindra has fought like a lion over the years'

"With every defeat he became stronger, and with every victory he became more humble," observes Abhinav Bindra's long-time mentor Amit Bhattacharjee as he walked down memory lane, recapturing the shooter's fascinating journey of 20 years.

“I remember after the Athens final, he sent me a long note saying that he was giving up the sport. It was time for the guru to kick into action." Amit Bhattacharjee (right) poses with Bindra at the Sao Paulo airport.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Dr. Amit Bhattacharjee, the man who has been mentoring the World and Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra from the time he was 13, was delighted to walk down the memory lane, recapturing a fascinating journey of 20 years, at a chance meeting at the Sao Paulo airport on way to Rio.

As Bindra ventures for the final sprint, overcoming hurdles, Bhattacharjee puts things in perspective by saying that this final fling was dedicated to the shooter’s parents, who had backed him when the world did not believe in the young champion. “I am here to cheer for him,” said Bhattacharjee.

“From being a shy boy to a charismatic champion, today Abhinav is more calm, composed and confident. He is more media and social media friendly. I could never have dreamt that three days before his last shot in history, he would accept to become the flag bearer,” said Bhattacharjee, with a lot of emotion.

Bag of surprises

Stating that Bindra had become a “bag of surprises”, he pointed out that the shooting champion had become more approachable to the public. “He has fought like a lion over the years. With every defeat he became stronger, and with every victory he became more humble,” said Bhattacharjee, impressed by the champion’s respect to his parents and the close circle.

Bindra’s parents — Dr. Apjit Bindra and Babli Bindra — had planned to be in Rio, but dropped the idea, to let the 33-year-old stay glued to his final task.

On his part, Bindra himself was non-committal. “I am just settling in. I had a rough travel. Hopefully, over the next few days, will get better,” Bindra said. “I have done my best under the circumstances,” admitted Bindra, with honesty.

“I remember after the Athens final, he sent me a long note saying that he was giving up the sport. It was time for the guru to kick into action. It was hard to bring him back from the defeatist attitude. The result was a historic individual gold for India at the Beijing Olympics once he got out of that mindset,” recalled Bhattacharjee.

It was tough to emulate what he did in Beijing, particularly at the next Games in London.

He has gone through a lot of emotions, but the time has now come to deliver the final punch. “He has put in extra hours and trained more vigorously. Just like in commando training, he has worked on elongation, articulation, organisation and muscle movement, electrical muscular stimulation, pilates and yoga. He has left nothing to chance,” said the mentor.

“The stars will shine and the heavens will smile as he prepares to roar once again,” said Bhattacharjee, whose birthday incidentally falls on August 8, the day Bindra will shoot for the last time in his career.

“With the Almighty’s grace and the blessings of his well-wishers, let us hope that history gets recreated in Rio, and the country has another milestone to rejoice,” said Bhattacharjee. As he put it wonderfully, “it will be the culmination of a 20-year-old journey, of a person who has thought, lived and breathed his passion for the sport.”

It is a matter of time before Rio gets to witness the champion of a billion-strong nation, at his fighting best. “I need a bit of luck,” Bindra conceded.

Fortune favours the brave. Few are braver than Bindra in fighting the odds.