In 2008, when Abhinav Bindra became India's first individual Olympic gold medallist, he became a household name. The five-time Olympian's journey had its fair share of ups and downs. Here's reliving his journey to the pinnacle of the sport of shooting.
Abhinav was always a dedicated athlete who set high goals for himself early on in his career. He showed a lot of promise at a nascent stage and took to the sport of shooting like fish to water.
"I dedicated a countless number of hours and effort to this sport. My career has been a long journey that taught me so many life lessons. I won the first-ever individual Olympic gold medal for India."
Watch the complete video by clicking on the tweet on Abhinav Bindra's official handle:
Everyone recognizes Abhinav Bindra for his marvelous feat during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Only a few are aware of the tremendous efforts the 10 m Air Rifle shooter put in to reach the pinnacle.
In the 25-minute video, Abhinav's mother shares that he was also focused as a child. Whether it was studying or playing games, Abhinav would forget about everything and focus on just what he was doing. He was very ambitious. He wanted to do everything and he would not give up.
Abhinav's father Dr. Apjit Singh Bindra also proudly reveals, "Having seen him from a young age... when he picked up the gun and he was shooting... he had an inborn talent which was a God's gift."
Colonel Dhillon was Abhinav's first coach in India. Later, the veteran started training under foreign coaches Gabriele Bühlmann and Heinz Reinkemeier.
A young Abhinav's aim was to win an Olympic gold. Nothing less. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna-Awardee further shares the story of how that gradually became his solitary goal:
"I won the club competition. Then I wanted to win the State Championship. Then I wanted to win the national championship. And then I wanted to represent my country and then of course I wanted to be an Olympian. It was a desire which came so strongly from within me. It was almost like a calling."
"For a shooting athlete, the Olympics is 'the' moment. It is 'the' moment to make a big name for yourself. It is 'the' moment where the world will take notice of you," added Bindra.
Abhinav Bindra's Olympic saga and the long wait
Abhinav missed out on participating in the final event of 10 m air rifle during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. However, the performance of the then teenager was enough to instill belief in him - that he had the ability to make it to the top - to win that elusive gold medal.
He finished 11th in the qualification round but instead of thinking of it as a setback, he used it to fuel his desire for an Olympic medal even further.
Soon, Bindra found himself heading to the 2004 Athens Olympics with high expectations. He had really put in the work and left no margin for error this time around. Abhinav had reached Athens in the best shape of his life.
However, what transpired at the 2004 Summer Olympics was beyond anyone's imagination. In the qualification rounds, Bindra shot a marvelous 597 out of a possible 600. Although, in the final, the game is open and anyone can win a medal.
Anyone can crumble on the biggest stage and that is what happened with Abhinav. Or at least that is what everyone, including Abhinav, initially thought. Bindra's final was disastrous as he finished last in the field with eight with 97.6 points.
What went wrong? What had really happened?
Two weeks after the forgettable day, Abhinav's coach called him to inform him that it was not his fault. A tile on the Olympic floor - the one on which Abhinav was standing - was loose. That was enough to make the difference. Shooting is a sport where fractions of millimeters here and there can make all the difference. Unfortunately for Bindra, that loose tile made the difference.
Abhinav was understandably heartbroken and had many sleepless nights. However, he soon picked up where he left off and started working towards his solitary goal again.
In the Olympic Channel Video, Bindra gives insights into the intricacies involved in the sport of shooting:
"Your ability to find this stillness and calmness in the midst of complete chaos is what really defines my sport. And that is a skill that you can never be born with. It is a skill that you have to work on. In fact, achieving the stillness of body is very complex because the human body is really built to move. It is not built to remain static. Just imagine how challenging that is. When your heart is beating at 160 beats per minute and you are trying to find that little window to release the shot. What we're trying to achieve is really to shoot the shot in between heartbeats. So it is really an art to find that balance and that harmony between mind and body."
That is how difficult it is. That is why only the best of the best make it to the top.
The experience of the Athens Olympics made Abhinav Bindra obsessive. He started paying attention to the minutest of details - down to even the scratches on the pellets.
Remembering that time, Abhinav quips:
"Obsession is a child of ambition and I was of course very very ambitious. I got very obsessive about every detail of my body, my mind, my equipment. Chasing perfection is like chasing an untamable beast."
His obsession was going to another level altogether. The 38-year-old disclosed that his parents and coaches helped him maintain his sanity during this time.
The wait ends
4 years passed and the 2008 Beijing Olympics came. Again, Bindra was amongst the favorites. Again, the nation's hopes were riding on him.
The 10-meter air rifle maestro scored 596 points in the qualifying round. The stage was set. This was it.
Going into the final shot, Abhinav's cumulative score of 689.7 was tied with Finnish shooter Henri Hakkinen. Bindra scored a phenomenal 10.8 in the final shot and won a historic gold medal for India.
Reminiscing about that historic moment, Abhinav shares it with a quiver in his voice:
"From within I was so happy and I was so fulfilled. I achieved what I set out to do. All the sacrifices that I made... I got on to the podium even before my name was called out. I got on when my country's name was called out. To me, of course, it was a personal victory but it was also a great victory for that belief... that you know Indians can get to the top step of this Olympic podium."
It would not be an overstatement to say that Indian sport changed in that one moment. India had been yearning for an Individual Olympics gold medal for a very long time. Bindra ended that drought and reignited the belief in all Indian athletes.
Bindra's legacy continues. The legend has set up ABTP's - Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance centers. These are advanced Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centers - currently situated in 7 cities in India. APTP's also give technologically-backed quantitative insights to the country's budding sportspeople.
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The Indian stalwart was also bestowed with the prestigious Blue Cross (International Shooting Sport Federation's highest honor) in 2018.
Abhinav Bindra's legend will certainly live on. His awe-inspiring journey will continue to motivate Indian youngsters to take up sport in the country.