India’s first individual Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra has said that he was only concerned about shooting well in the final of the 2008 Beijing Games and would not have regretted if he hadn’t won a medal. He also said the hysteria that followed his landmark win drained him and he hated it.
If he had to win the 10m Air Rifle event at Beijing and create history, Abhinav Bindra knew he needed to conquer fear–the kind of fear that he could face only in an Olympic final. In the build-up to the event and in the search for perfection, he decided to use a technique used by German special forces- climbing a ‘pizza pole’. Bindra climbed a 40-foot-high pole which became smaller as he neared the summit, the platform at the peak the size of a pizza box.
In a book co-authored by journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose, titled ‘My Olympic Journey’, Bindra wrote, “I had flown to Beijing from Munich. This was because a few days before leaving for the Olympics, I had decided to get out of my comfort zone and climb a pizza pole, also used by the German special forces.
“I started climbing and halfway up decided I could not go on. But this was precisely the reason for attempting the task. I had to conquer fear, fear that could grip me during an Olympic final. I was scared out of my wits even though I was hooked to safety wires. I pushed on and finally stood trembling at the top,” PTI reported.
His exit in the 2004 Athens Olympics had left him in a state of shock, but the pizza pole experience helped him be prepared for it, the 2014 Asian Games bronze medalist said.
“… However, it (pizza pole) was an excellent experience as I was able to stretch the limits of my skill and endurance— something that is definitely required of an Olympic champion.”
Abhinav Bindra also wrote that after a poor warm-up shot before the 2008 finals, his mind rushed back to Athens.
Bindra wrote, “Before the final began, we had five minutes to warm up to shoot the ten most important shots of our life. My first shot in the warm-up was a 4. It was a great shock, and my mind immediately went back to Athens. The first shot in the final was a 10.7, pretty close to bullseye. My experience in the previous Olympics at Athens had taught me a lot about detachment, and I drew from it.“I did not care whether I won the gold or not. The only concern was that I shoot well at the final. And as a result, those ten shots in Beijing were probably the best shots I have ever fired in my life. Even if I had not won a medal, there would have been no regret.
“My last shot was a 10.8. The perfect shot in shooting is 10.9. When I finished, I didn’t know the exact result, but somewhere at the back of my mind I was confident that I had done well. I had given it my all and was completely drained,” PTI reported.
The 2006 World Champion was relieved after the victory, but the drama that ensued after the win left him drained.
“When I finally won it eight years later, it was disastrous on a completely different level. Don’t get me wrong – I knew what I had achieved. I had even anticipated the hysteria that followed, but I did not want to have anything to do with it. I hated every moment of the ‘tamasha’ that followed. I could detach myself while shooting in Beijing, but I just could not detach myself when I came home.
“Those were difficult times for me. Quite frankly, I was ready to move on the moment I stepped off the podium. And I wish I had been able to as I would have been in better shape for the next Olympic Games. I needed time to recover, to recharge my batteries. The celebrations that followed were fantastic and quite touching, but I felt they were draining me out,” he wrote in the book, PTI reported.
He also wrote about the need for long-term goals for the country to do well at the Olympics.
“Our goals cannot be short-term ones. We have to focus on the 2020 Games in Tokyo and beyond. If we are able to strengthen our grass roots, then I am convinced we can hope to bag more medals.”
After breaking the Olympic record by shooting 597/600 in qualifying in Athens, Bindra performed badly in the final and missed out on a medal. Yet, he wrote, the 2004 Olympics was path-breaking because of Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver medal in the Men’s Double Trap event.
“… However, even as I struggled to comprehend what had gone wrong, there was a huge moment for Indian shooting and Indian sport. I was in the stands when Rajyavardhan Rathore won the silver medal in double trap. It was truly a path-breaking performance. I credit him for breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a pioneer for Olympic sports in India,” PTI reported.
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