BEIJING (AFP) — Abhinav Bindra won India’s first ever individual Olympic gold medal on Monday, saying it was a reward for “punching holes in a paper target” all his life.
Abhinav Bindra won India’s first individual Olympic gold medal on Monday with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the men’s 10m air rifle.
Bindra had been fourth after qualifying but had a brilliant final round and the Indian, the epitome of tranquillity, hit a near perfect 10.8 on his last shot to pull in front of Henri Hakkinen of Finland, who fell to bronze with a poor final shot.
That late stumble by the Finn allowed China’s Zhu Qinan, the defending Olympic champion and heavy favourite, to salvage a bitter day with silver. Zhu sobbed uncontrollably on the podium and again at a news conference.
“I can’t describe how happy I am,” the ever-calm Bindra told journalists. “It’s the thrill of my life. That’s about it. It’s hard to describe. I just went for it. I knew I was lying in fourth. Thankfully it went my way and I just went for it.”
Zhu suffered a lapse in concentration in the qualification earlier when he had to rush his final shots to make the time limit, dropping to second behind Hakkinen ahead of the final.
“I was under tremendous pressure and at times I felt really agitated,” Zhu said just before stepping on the podium and breaking down in tears. “But I tried my best.”
Moments later at the news conference Zhu was crying harder.
“I’ve been through a lot of hardship and shed a lot of tears in the last four years, there have been successes and failures,” he said. “After 2004 my only aim has not changed. I had so very much wanted to be a champion at the Beijing Olympics.”
Bindra, a 25-year-old businessman from Chandigarh, followed his world championship title of two years ago by grabbing the men’s 10m Air Rifle shooting gold medal.
Athens Games champion Zhu Qinan of China won the silver and Henri Hakkinen of Finland the bronze after one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history.
Bindra, who trailed by two points after the qualification round, trumped his rivals in the 10-shot final as he went into the last shot level with Hakkinen on 689.7 points.
While Bindra secured his best score of 10.8 in the deciding shot, Hakkinen managed only 9.7 to concede the silver to Zhu, whose last shot was 10.5.
“It’s the best feeling of my life,” said an elated Bindra, a winner of India’s highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (sports jewel), in 2001.
“I was just trying to concentrate on shooting, I was not thinking about making history.
“For me life will go on. All my life I have just been punching holes in a blank piece of paper target. “But I sincerely hope this win will change the face of Olympic sport in India. In our country, Olympic sports are not really a priority, I hope now they will get more attention.”
India, a nation of a billion people addicted to cricket, have won eight field hockey Olympic gold medals but had never won an individual title before Bindra’s feat.
The previous best was trap shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver at Athens four years ago, while there were bronze medals for wrestler Khasaba Jadhav (1952), tennis star Leander Paes (1996) and woman weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (2000).
I couldn’t believe my eyes when i was checking out the medal tally and found INDIA in the GOLD category.. I’am really very happy and so are all the fellow INDIANS at home