We were all looking at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as one more to go down the history with just a Bronze or Silver in front of India’s proudly accentuated name in the country list. With Hockey, Boxing and other main sports getting a leeway as compared to the other lesser known sports, a sudden gold medal made us all sit up and switch to more sensible news on our television sets. Abhinav Bindra had won the first individual Gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With most of us having seen India shines in the same glory when the Hockey team won the Gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, we breathed a sigh of relief. We could now let go off our need to cling on to our Hockey team as the only sport which could adorn the name of India with a Gold medal in this world championship. We have done well in the Asian games, we have made our stupendous mark in the Commonwealth Games, but we were exceptionally proud of Bindra to bring the gold back home.
With Cricket and Hockey hogging most of the limelight in the sports fraternity of India and basking in shining glory after having won, triumphant shooters like Anjali Bhagwat, Jaspal Rana, RVS Rathore and now Abhinav Bindra have successfully been able to tantamount this sport with the other traditional and well reputed sports of the country. Shooting had always retained its prestige and esteem as a royal sport through the association to affluence, royal families and also with the military. But today, it is taken to as a serious sport which stands its chance of bringing back laurels, on an international level, to the players and associations back home. Since the formation of the National Rifle Association of India in 1951 by the hands of the then Speaker of Lok Sabha, G. V. Malvankar (he is also connoted as the Father of rifle shooting in India), the sport has been able to gain a foothold in a certain niche of the masses as well.
Abhinav Bindra winning a Gold medal in the same sport has introduced this sport in a brand new dimension. Him cracking deals with the Sahara group, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Samsung do not just give away his personal achievement but also see the emergence of this sport as somewhat of a style statement. It has brought in as many laurels as any other sport has in the past decade.
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Abhinav, started shooting as a sport when he was a teenager. Bindra was the youngest Indian participant in the 2000 Olympics. He grabbed nine medals in many international meets in 2001. He won Gold and Silver medals in the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester and won Gold and Bronze medals in the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne. After doing extremely well in the European shooting circuit, Abhinav aimed to achieve the highest pedestal, the Olympic Gold. Even though the European competitions did not present him with a real championship event, he held his own and earned the exposure and experience. He needed a foreign coach; the funds his father, A.S. Bindra, had provided him with had exhausted and he needed government funding from now on to bring the precious medal home. The then Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Ms. Uma Bharati was keen on helping him and was assured that he would bag the Olympic gold for India. Now, Bindra’s equipment is sponsored by a top German rifle company, Walther and even though he possesses an indoor shooting range in his home in Punjab, he plans to build a new modern one.
The recipient of the Arjuna Award in 2000, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2001 today is the receiver of the illustrious Padma Bhushan which was awarded to him on January 25th, 2009. A modest and calm persona, he is also an avid blogger on blogspot.com, now that he has a significant fan following; and has grown as an icon of sorts. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of Abhinav Futuristics, which is the sole distributor of Walthers brand of weapons to the country’s police departments and law enforcements agencies. As we observe the turn of events, Bindra does not want to limit himself only to the sport and its achievement but also venture out, explore and probably set an example by being dynamic and far sighted.
While we move along with these achievements by our sportspersons being cherished by the public and government equally, the need to keep funding and thus, keep encouraging all kinds of sports is key and essential in their survival. We will all esteem the Bindras and the Rathores, but we also need to realize that they are the spearheading force for the youth to be inspired, move forward and achieve. It is not just about winning and celebrating. It is about creating more winners through motivation and belief.