As hysteria surrounding his Olympic feat swept the wide-eyed mob, shooter Abhinav Bindra maintained an even tone and steady demeanor. The fervent excitement of a medal-starved nation provoked nothing but a glazed look and an inscrutable smile.
Bindra stole the spotlight by becoming the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal at the Beijing Games. Remarkably serene, Bindra has achieved more in his career than nearly every Olympian before him.
“In the Beijing hall, I felt a powerful peace. My hand was being shaken, my name said, the world was a daze,” Abhinav Bindra wrote in his autobiography, 'A Shot at History'.
Starting off as a teenager at the Sydney Olympics to being honored as India’s flag bearer for the Rio Olympics, the sky seems to be the only limit for this trailblazer.
Tracing Abhinav Bindra's journey to the Olympics
The nation still remembers Abhinav Bindra as the youngest shooter to compete in an Olympic event at the tender age of 17. He finished a lowly 11th with a score of 590 in the 10m Air Rifle at the 2000 Sydney Games in what was only his maiden Olympics.
High on confidence after winning six gold medals in a year alone, Bindra clinched two medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. His incomparable influence in the discipline had by then already cemented him as one of the finest shooters of his generation.
Bindra set a new Olympic record but missed the podium by a whisker to finish seventh at the Athens Olympics. However, he made up for that loss by fetching India its first-ever gold medal at the Shooting World Cup several months later.
Following his successful streak across team and individual events at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Bindra was now keen to assert his dominance on the Olympic stage once more.
He took his already phenomenal career some notches higher at the Beijing Games with an Olympic title in the 10m Air Rifle individual category. Bindra surpassed all expectations, finishing with an overall score of 700.5. He proved his mettle once more, as he prevailed over Henri Häkkinen in the shoot-off in the final round with a score of 10.8.
"Those 10 shots, they were magical. Stability, timing, execution, they were the best shots of my life… I knew, I could not shoot better," Abhinav Bindra was quoted as saying.
Bindra continued to hold sway during the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games, where he clinched three medals, including two golds and a silver. However, he couldn't replicate his Beijing success four years later at the London Olympics. He failed to advance to the final round after finishing 16th.
Bindra came tantalizingly close to a podium finish at the Rio Olympics, only to be outgunned by Serhiy Kulish in a shoot-off in the men's 10m Air Rifle event.
Road ahead for Indian shooting
Youngsters Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary are among a new crop of shooters who are re-igniting India's hopes for a podium finish in Tokyo this summer. It is this backdrop that should stand the Indian contingent in good stead at the quadrennial event.