Rio Olympics 2016: Gagan Narang's 10m Air Rifle encore that was not to be
‘Disappointment’ becomes the buzz word in the Indian media every four years when the Olympics take place. It was splattered all over the headlines on all TV channels and newspapers for the first couple of days in Rio de Janeiro. But day three was not about disappointments, it was about heartbreaks. One is disappointed when rookies fail in their endeavours – but when legends take a tumble – one is left crestfallen.
On the day for which they were sweating it out for last 4 years, Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra showed more than a glimpse of why they have grown up to be icons in Indian sports even if they couldn’t deliver the knockout punch with their performance.
While paeans would be read about the 2008 Gold winner Bindra, who narrowly missed out on a Bronze which he looked to have in his bag almost throughout the competition, and deservingly so, spare a little thought for Gagan Narang. The 33-year-old shooter looked to be on a roll before it all excruciatingly fell apart for him. He was off to a better start than his compatriot Abhinav Bindra and scored 105.3 in the first round.
The rousing start was followed by a slight dip in his graph as he shot a still decent 104.5 in the next. At this stage, it was Narang who looked to be comfortably sailing into the finals ahead of Bindra, who was languishing way behind.
But the thing with shooting is that you can never discount the basics and, in events like the Olympics, where no one is ready to concede an inch, one can’t afford a slip up even for a second. That’s exactly the cardinal sin that Narang ended up committing in his third round. The third round produced a measly 102.1 for the 33-year-old, and from there began the downfall that no one saw coming.
On the other hand, Bindra made his way up from a dismal 102.1 in the first round to gloriously shoot three 10.8 scores in his final five attempts to secure his place in the finals. Narang’s slip in concentration cost him a shot place in the finals.
Although the 4 time CWG Gold medalist would eventually finish 23rd with a final score of 621.7, he raised hopes of a 2012 encore while he was there. After the first two rounds, it seemed that he would breeze through the third thanks to his massive experience. In fact, the shooter looked in just the kind of touch one would need to corner glory on such days.
The grandness of the Olympics’ stage, however, tests the best in the business and Narang’s composed exterior could do little to hide the nerves, as the scores started falling in the third round and, with that, his dream of a medal too.
The shooter then could only see his fellow Indian Abhinav Bindra come at a whisker’s distance to his London feat, before one bad shot by Bindra capped off a heartbreaking day for Indians at the Games. While it's curtains for Bindra, Narang has still a long way to go in this edition. By the virtue of being one of the select Indian athletes who will feature in three events, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner has two more shots at glory left.
While it was Abhinav Bindra who spoke in the run-up to the Olympics about the importance of detaching oneself from the surroundings during the big game, its best demonstration came from Narang in 2012 London Olympics. After winning the Bronze in the 10m Air Rifle event, the same event where Bindra had crashed out in the qualifiers, Narang showed little to no emotion.
This, despite the fact that his was the first of the six medals India would go on to win in the London Games. As Narang would later admit, his reaction to the achievement was tepid because he had two more events still left to participate in and he couldn’t have afforded to lose his focus ahead of them.
Although the results didn’t go in his favour in the 10m Air Rifle, this is exactly the level of detachment Narang would need to produce to bring his A-game to excel in the 50m Rifle Prone on Friday. He will need to get out of his head all the ‘could have beens’ that didn’t work out in the first event and start afresh mentally for the 50m Rifle Prone on Friday.
This was the same event where Narang had produced a Silver fetching performance in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and come Friday, if he can have a slightly better grip over his concentration than he had in the 10m Air Rifle event, he can produce wonders. With the wealth of experience that the shooter possesses, a mental barrier shouldn’t worry him too much. For, in a long career that has spanned across four Olympics, the shooter has leaped past many a hurdle to reach where he is today.
The events on Friday and Sunday (50m Rifle 3 Positions) would test the mental toughness of the shooter to the hilt. To overcome what transpired on Monday would need some determination from the congenial looking shooter. But as the saying goes, ’The harder the struggle, the greater the glory’ and glory is what a billion people are hoping Narang conquers in his last two opportunities on Friday and Sunday.Published 09 Aug 2016, 09:25 IST