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Chandigarh’s Abhinav shoots gold
Defeats defending champion of China
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Beijing, August 11
Abhinav has done it. He has not only done shooting, Chandigarh, Punjab and India proud but also carved a name for himself in the history books by becoming the first ever individual to win an Olympic gold for India.

I still remember the same event four years ago where Abhinav not only set aside the Olympic qualifying mark but also became the first ever India to qualify for the gold medal round in shooting.But that was not enough. It did not satiate his appetite for an Olympic medal.

What a contrast between the two finals, the first in 2004 (Athens) and the second today in 2008(Beijing). Two of the contestants - Abhinav Bindra (India) and Chinan Zhu (China) figured prominently in both the events.

In Athens, watching from the spectators stands among others were his parents and his sister. But today neither his parents and sister were there. I had the chance to witness both the finals. Abhinav of 2008 was totally different from one I had seen in action four years ago. Today he was all concentration and had only bulls eye to shoot. And he did it admirably well.

In fact, in the qualifying rounds in Athens, Abhinav had shot well and looked a certainty for the country’s first ever Olympic medal. But his nerve of steel gave in the final shoot where his last of 10 rounds could get him a demoralising low score of 8.8. He finished a poor seventh in a field of eight finalists.

It was a big disappointment not only for his father, Dr AS Bindra, besides others from the Indian contingent but also for Abhinav who had trained hard for the event. In fact, in between the qualifying round and the final, Dr Bindra exuberated with confidence and was hopeful that his son would win country’s first olympic medal in shooting. His optimism came from the score Abhinav had in the qualifying round.

And today Abhinav did win, not the first shooting medal but the first individual gold medal since India made its debut in the Olympics in 1928.

Only other individual of Indian parentage to win an Olympic gold has been Alexi Singh Grewal, the winner of the gruelling 192km road race in Los Angeles (1984) Olympic Games. But Alexi is US-born and had never been to India.

Just a fortnight before the start of the Olympic Games, Abhinav’s father had decided to seek blessings of the almighty. He called me and wanted me to come with my friends in sports for the special ceremony- bhog of an akhand path at the Sector 8 gurdwara in Chandigarh. And the ceremony was held yesterday.

Incidentally, the timing of the bhog ceremony and the final shot Abhinav fired at the target coincided. Perhaps heavenly blessings worked this time.

For 26-year-old Abhinav, it was ‘shooting’ that mattered.

“I have a fantastic feeling,” he said after winning the gold beating the previous champion Qinan Zhu of China. Qinan was disappointed for not ending his Olympic career with a gold in home Olympics. He wept at the post-event Press briefing.

Today Abhinav was a picture of concentration as his last shot, that clinched gold, hit the bulls’eye getting him a superb 10.8 score.And this shot made the history. First to congratulate him was the Union Minister of State for Sports Manohar Singh Gill and the Secretary-General of Indian Olympic Association Randhir Singh.

Abhinav had completed the task he had left incomplete at Athens four years ago. Incidentally, I am one of few journalists who have been by the arena side to see Indians winning individual medals since 1996 (Leander Paes in Atlanta), Malleshwari (2000, Sydney, weightlifting), Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (Athens, shooting, 2004) and today Abhinav Bindra (shooting, Beijing).



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