Bindra’s shot brings home Olympic gold

Abhinav Bindra won the Olympic gold medal for the 10-metre air rifle event at Beijing on Monday, Aug 11, bagging for independent India its first individual Olympic gold and sending the nation into raptures.

The gold was an improvement on the silver won by another shooter, double trap marksman Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, in the Athens Olympics.

It was also the fifth individual medal for India in Olympic Games over the years. Tennis ace Leander Paes won the singles bronze in Atlanta in 1996 and lifter Karnam Malleswari won a bronze in Sydney in 2000. K.D. Jadhav opened the account for India in 1952 with a wrestling bronze.

Indian hockey has won eight gold medals, but it has been a dream for the country to win gold elsewhere. The hockey team failed to qualify for the Beijing Games.

It was third time lucky for the 25-year-old Bindra, from Chandigarh: he missed the final by one point in Sydney. There, he was the youngest shooter in the fray.

He made it to the final last time in Athens but finished seventh: flawed flooring affected his performance.

In Beijing, Abhinav missed the last of his 60 shots before the final and was placed fourth with 596 at the end of the qualification series, two points behind the leaders.

He moved into the medal bracket after the first of 10 shots in the final, and moved up to the silver after the third shot. He had the gold in control after the seventh shot, and was tied for the gold with Henri Hakkinen of Finland after the penultimate shot.

While the nation waited with bated breath as the event was telecast live, Abhinav released the last shot, the first to do so among the eight finalists, for a near-perfect 10.8.

The gold having been clinched by the Indian, the Chinese defending champion and Olympic record holder, Zhu Qinan, had to settle for the silver despite an impressive 10.5 last shot. The Finn got the bronze with a 9.7.

“I had to go for it on the last shot. Today was my day. I am happy and thrilled. I can’t describe it,” said Bindra, quite cool and equanimous. Meanwhile, the Chinese challenger was inconsolable.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday hailed Bindra’s feat. Ms. Patil said “Bindra has realised the dream of a billion people.”

Dr. Singh said the shooter has “done the nation proud through his spectacular achievement which I hope will inspire other sportspersons of our country.”