Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, ending India’s twenty eight year drought. Bindra, who qualified for the finals of the 10m Air Pistol event in fourth position, put in a strong performance to clinch what had eluded the hands of an individual Indian athlete for 108 years.
Ranked 17th in the world when he entered the event, Bindra defied the odds withstanding a tough challenge from Henry Hakkinen from Finland and China’s Zhu Qinan, the defending Olympic gold medallist from Athens.
Bindra emerged triumphant in the 10-shot final with a finish of 104.5, taking his tally of points to 700.5 as against Zhu’s silver winning performance of 699.7 (597+102.7) and 699.4 (598+101.4) by Hakkinen, which gave the Finn Army marksman the bronze.
Bindra was consistently on the rise in the final, shooting into the third place with his first 10.7 shot, and then into second by the time he was taking his fourth.
A 10.6 on his seventh attempt earned Bindra the lead and in the deciding shot he got 10.8, way ahead of 10.5 by the Chinese and 9.7 by the Finn to bring India the first ever gold medal by an individual since the country first participated in Olympics in 1900. The businessman from Chandigarh also ended India’s wait for a gold since the hockey team fetched a yellow metal in the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
Zhu Qinan had the chance to become the first man to win two gold medals in the event but blew it with a sub par performance. Bindra, on the other hand, was on the verge of ending his career due to a back injury, but kept himself keyed in, to deliver the performance of a life time, on the back of which he carried the hopes of a billion people back home.
India was in a great position to have two marksmen in the finals. Bindra’s compatriot Gagan Narang too almost made it to the final but was ruled out on count back. Gagan scored 595, leveled at the fifth place but lost out on a final place in count back.
For the first time, the Indian national anthem played at the Olympics, as Bindra accepted the gold medal from the Queen of Liechtenstein, betraying no emotion on his face.
And with Indians in other sport also expected to make a mark, especially Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the trap, and Saina Nehwal in badminton alongside perpetual medal hopes, tennis duo, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, Beijing should make for a happier hunting ground for the Indians, than most of the Olympics have been.
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