India clinched its first individual Olympic gold medal ever in Olympic history when Abhinav Bindra won the 10 meter air rifle event in one of the most pulsating shooting finals in the annals of the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.
Bindra (C) stand on the podium with fellow contestants during the medal ceremony in Beijing
As Abhinav Bindra bowed his head to receive the gold medal and the Indian national anthem was played out for the first time in the Beijing Shooting Range Hall, celebrations broke out in India. Rifleman Bindra created history firing his way to India's first-ever individual Olympic gold medal Monday, triggering revelry among Indians.
Keeping his composure in a crunch situation, Bindra came up with a near perfect 10.8 with his final shot to ensure a top podium finish in the 10 metres air rifle event.
His gold came 28 years after India last won gold it at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the men's hockey team came on top of the heap, but as a team. An ecstatic Bindra was at a loss for words. “I have been at it for a long time and I did a good job. There’s nothing more to say. I needed every bit of energy to perform well,” he said.
Dream come true
Twenty-five-year-old Bindra's golden saga has twists and turns in his career. It was a fairytale ending for someone who a year ago was not sure whether he would ever lift a rifle again let alone go to the Olympics. After the Athens Olympics, the Chandigarh born Bindra was immobilized by a severe back problem and doubts crept into his mind whether it was worth the effort to carry on with his passion of shooting despite all the pain.
Abhinav’s father, A S Bindra said that he knew his son had it in him to win. “Every parent wants to give his or her child the best. When I saw the talent in Abhinvav, I had a belief that he was going to nurture that talent. There was no looking back as far as I was concerned.”
President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Abhinav Bindra on his feat. While Singh described it as a “golden performance”, Patil said Bindra had realized the dream of a billion Indians. Almost everyone wanted to be associated with him including India’s cricket captain and youth icon, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who said: “I would like to congratulate Abhinav Bindra. He has made us all proud. I feel really proud to be an Indian."
Boost to other sports
Sports Editor Veturi Srivatsa of the Times of India said shooting could now upstage many other sports disciplines: “India has never won an individual gold medal. It is always the 8 gold medals India won in hockey. So if you look at what Bindra did, it is something fantastic and I am sure this is a precursor to much more coming especially from shooters, I think shooting has overtaken all other sports as a national sport now.”
Of the 56 member Indian contingent to Beijing 9 are shooters. Pupul Datta, a former national silver medallist said it was great moment. “It feels really nice. In fact I am proud and I am sure the entire country is proud of Bindra. But then I believe there can be many more shooters like Bindra if resources especially monetary are put in order and even the shooters from villages and towns come out,” adds Datta.
It has been a tough journey to Beijing for the brilliant marksman but a moment that will be cherished and remembered for long in India.