0.6 – As it turned out, that is often how slender the difference between success and defeat is. Abhinav Bindra found that out during the shoot-off against Ukraine's Serhiy Kulish in the finals of the men's 10m air rifle event at Rio. However, despite that result, Bindra leaves behind a legacy which will be hard to match for any athlete who is looking to succeed him.
The 33-year-old was physically struggling to continue before the start of the Olympics. But like always, he persevered.
“In the last two years, though, he has started to feel the exertion. He first announced his intentions of retiring after the Commonwealth Games in 2014. And then again after the Asian Games the same year. He felt his body was over-worked and did not wish to exert it further. So he cut down his practice from seven days a week to two days. Of course, that was not the case closer to the Olympics, where he was back to his old self.
“During that period, he also had this injury which bothered him a lot. The finger he uses to pull the trigger was getting numb. So he had to undergo special exercises and medication to get it sorted.
“It is extremely tough for us to see Abhinav go through that. But he ensured none of this affected his training for the Rio Games. There were pujas held voluntarily over 1,300 temples across the country to pray that he returned with a medal. Alas, that was not to be,” Abhinav Bindra's father, Apjit Bindra, wrote for the Indian Express.
At the start of his career, Bindra did not face a hurdle which most of the Indian athletes face in their career—financial hardship. His father could afford to build a private range, and later invest in a farmhouse where Bindra could practice without facing any commotion.
“My memory jogs back to that day in 1998. We were staying in a makeshift building in Chandigarh. Since it was not possible to create any shooting facilities there, Abhinav used to go to the Chandigarh range. That place, though was very poorly maintained and Abhinav wasn’t too keen to carry on practicing there. We had lawns in outskirts of Chandigarh and Abhinav asked me if we could build a range there. So I built a small, one-lane range there.
“After he returned from Sydney Olympics, I invested in a farmhouse where Abhinav could stay and shoot. And till date, that’s where he spends most of his time when he is in India. Everything he needs is there. Abhinav always wanted things to be perfect. He likes to travel well, stay at places that are good and wanted best coaches working with him. It came at a cost – we spent roughly Rs 2-3 crores every year. But it was a necessary investment to ensure he continued to pursue his dream for over 20 years. I’ve got to say, the sports ministry has been extremely generous and kind to us,” Apjit Bindra wrote.
Everyone has his battles to fight, and Bindra's was with himself. Perfectionists can get tormented by failures, and often Bindra came close to quitting.
However, money and fortune often brings along indolence and conceit. But not for Bindra. He was a perfectionist, and he stopped at nothing in his quest for excellence. Everyone has his battles to fight, and Bindra's was with himself. Perfectionists can get tormented by failures, and often Bindra came close to quitting. But, even during the lows of his career, Bindra never provided excuses – be it the faulty floor at Athens, or the broken sighter at Rio.
“But more than the financial aspect, it’s been the psychological bit that’s been challenging for all of us. If he doesn’t have a good match or has a poor shot during training. he will spend the entire night trying to find out why he made that mistake, then analyse it and come up with a solution.
“There have also been times when he felt like giving up. After Athens, he didn’t want to shoot. He came and told us, ‘I am going to burn by rifle.’ All those times were full of frustration. But he is not the one to come up with excuses, even though there was genuinely something wrong.
“At Athens, as we know now, the floor of the finals hall was faulty. He never spoke about it. At Beijing, he won the gold but those 2-3 minutes he went through extreme torture when he got to know that his rifle was tampered with. He just dealt with it. Even on Monday, he fell off the table on which he was sitting before the qualifier and broke his sighter. For a shooter, these things play with your mind a lot. But Abhinav is one person who never complains – he did not mention Monday’s incident to us as well. We got to know about it only from media reports,” Bindra's father wrote.
Whatever challenges Bindra had faced during his professional career, perhaps the biggest awaits him now. To find a new objective in life after dedicating the best part of one's life towards achieving a single goal is challenging. But one thing we can be sure about as he walks away from his range towards a life where he won't have a trigger next to his finger - Bindra will settle for nothing less than perfection.
“But as a father and a fan, I look back at Abhinav’s journey with great satisfaction.
“But as a father and a fan, I look back at Abhinav’s journey with great satisfaction. He leaves behind a legacy of how to be a true sportsperson. He has shown hard work can help you achieve whatever you dream. And above all, you have to be an upright person with a strong character willing to lend your hand to all other teammates.
“Abhinav is just 33. He has his whole life in front of him. He now wants to lead a life where shooting is not an everyday part. Proper, competitive shooting I mean. So he has to indulge in some business or some kind of work.
“He has to survive. I wish…we have our own family business…if it interests him, he carries it on. If it does not interest him, he can do whatever he wants. He has great aura and 20 years of sporting experience. He is one of the very few who has tried and fought every system in the world and is a powerhouse of knowledge. His interests go much beyond shooting. I also wish he marries and settles down. But I am guessing he will take some time off after returning from Rio and think over his options. He will need that break. It’s been a whirlwind journey for us. And the outpouring of feelings for Abhinav is overwhelming. He may not have won a medal in his last tournament. But for me, he will always be a winner,” his father wrote for Indian Express.