Today, the greatest sporting spectacle of the world, the Olympics will be opened in London. Leading up to the event, we have been looking at the top 10 inspirational Olympic stories.
In a country which hasn’t won a gold medal since 1980 and which hasn’t produced a singles gold medalist ever, the hopes of a medal are usually dry. The hurdles that you fight to become an Indian Olympian are usually very high. But these things don’t matter if you have an obsession for greatness, if you are named Abhinav Bindra.
# 10 – Abhinav Bindra’s quest for Gold
A billion people praying for you, a billion people hoping that you would make them proud in an arena that doesn’t involve only 20 countries. The weight of the nation on your shoulders. That pressure cannot be summarized in words.
Some people fight and toil for recognition and on the other hand there are people who are just born with a golden spoon.
In boarding school, Bindra’s father sent him a letter that read, “Never mind if you don’t study but play sports,” a sentence that isn’t very common among Indian parents. But then again, setting a private shooting range in one’s backyard too isn’t very common either. But Bindra was never into sports. He recalls stating “The first 11 years of my life I just hated sports. I never watched and never played sports in schools.”
But his father’s letter changed his perspective. Bindra began playing tennis and golf but he didn’t succeed in them and picked up his interest of shooting beer bottles as a professional sport.
When he was only 15, Bindra participated in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Later, in 2001 he won the bronze medal at the World Cup in Munich, setting a record score of 597/600. Throughout 2001, Bindra won various gold medals at the international level. He was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in the same year, making him the youngest person to receive the award at a tender age of 18.
The Commonwealth Games in 2002 showed India that they had a champion in making. Bindra won gold in the 10 m Air Rifle pairs and Silver in the singles. With a medal almost certain, Bindra left for Athens to participate in the 2004 Olympic Games.
Bindra broke the Olympics record in the qualification by scoring 597/600 and went into the finals. There, Bindra had to face the test of his career and he faltered, finishing last out of eight shooters. Shattered by the events that took place at Athens, Bindra’s life began to change. From a rich, young boy who loved shooting, he transformed himself into a shooter who wanted redemption more than anything.
The training sessions began to change, the shooting regimen began to change. Legend has it that Bindra once came out of a shooting range scoring 600/600, but looking unhappy. He also supposedly stuffed Ferrari tyres’ rubber into his shoe lace, hoping that it would help his balance. It is from these blind ambitions that one achieves greatness.
Two years passed. In 2006, at Zagreb, Bindra became the first Indian to win gold at the World Championships. Despite a severe back injury in the later part of 2006, Bindra was able to make it to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In the qualifying, Bindra scored 596, one point less than his previous attempt at Athens and went into the finals placed fourth. This time, Bindra was very focused and determined in the finals and with one shot remaining, was tied on top with Finland’s Henri Hakkinen. But Bindra had saved his best for the last; he scored his highest score of the finals – 10.8 and clinched the coveted gold medal.
Bindra stood with sheer pride in the podium covered by the Tricolor as the Indian National Anthem began to play. The promise was kept, Bindra avenged his gutting loss at Athens and made a billion people proud.
When asked what defines a champion, Bindra replied “I think it is the ability to keep testing yourself and hang in there a bit more.” That is what separates (champions). It depends on the individual’s ability to try harder and to “survive those critical moments to face the pressure.”
What Bindra did when he won that gold in Beijing was phenomenal. He broke down a barrier which had stood tall in our country for a century. And more importantly, Bindra taught his fellow Indian athletes and peers that achieving an Olympic gold is no longer an impossible ask. In an arena when they were once mocked, Indian athletes now stand tall with a hint of pride and that is worth more than a gold medal.
The work is surely not done yet. He can repeat his feat in London but despite the outcome this time around, Abhinav Bindra will always remain as the guy who opened up the gates for India’s emergence in Olympics.
Here is the finals video of the 10 m Air Rifle event in Beijing
Here is the list of all the other entries that made it to our list