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The quest for Olympic Gold: Abhinav Bindra and his 'pizza pole' story

Why did the ace shooter climb a 40m-long pizza pole just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

Shooter Abhinav Bindra after winning his 2008 Olympic Gold medal

The man carved out his own glittering space in our history books when he became the first Indian to clinch an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games by winning the 10 metre Air Rifle event at Beijing 2008. Abhinav Bindra – ace shooter and former World Champion – had quite a story up his sleeve on his journey from a diligent dreamer to the highest throne atop the sporting arena.

In the recent release ‘My Olympic Journey: 50 of India's Leading Sportspersons on the Biggest Test of Their Career' penned by journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose, Bindra recalled how he had devised his own unique means to overcome the anxiety that a lot of athletes face at the biggest stage of their careers, something he was not a stranger to either. His exploits landed him at the bottom of a 40-metre-long ‘pizza-pole’ that he aimed to scale merely days ahead of the Summer Games in Beijing.

Also read: Sports personalities tweet about Digvijay Singh Deo's new book on India's greatest Olympians

As far as the 33-year-old Punjab-born Olympian’s plans went, he would try and climb the entire length of the vertical structure on his own in an attempt to replicate a scenario where the fright he felt could get the better of him and keep him from going the full distance. Exercised by members of the German forces, the activity was known to aid in people’s successful quelling of their gripping fears.

Coming off the back of a disappointing Athens 2004 Olympic campaign where he had broken the previous best Olympic record with a humongous 597 out of 600 in the qualification stage but had then bowed out of the finals after a lacklustre performance, Bindra was determined to enforce a better outcome in Beijing 2008.

Also read: Know your Indian Olympian: Abhinav Bindra

The pole posed a challenge like none other, and he caught hold of it in order to move from the thicker bottom to the thinner-most top end where a small platform resembling a box of pizza waited for his arrival.

Halfway through, the jitters were finally getting to him which meant that he found himself on the verge of giving up – but he shook them off and conquered the whole stretch to stand on the narrow ‘pizza-box’ platform at a height of 40m – an experience that provided his morale with a timely and huge boost prior to the 2008 Games.

Days later, Abhinav Bindra was crowned India’s first ever individual Olympic gold medallist – a feat the enormity of which cannot be crisply put in words; and to think the inspiration had arrived from an adventurous ascent on a steep pizza-pole having taken a page out of Germany’s special forces’ training!

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