Abhinav Bindra is a man of few words, as champions generally are. Yet, the World and Olympic champion was pretty quick in discussing the possibility of capturing within the covers of a book his journey to the ultimate triumph in sports, even as his fans were busy collecting his autograph on souvenirs after he had won the country's first ever individual Olympic gold at the Beijing Games in 2008.
The few achievers in Indian sports tend to keep themselves busy pursuing goals other than writing a book, which is generally seen as an activity best suited for post-retirement years, when earning money is no more a priority. At 26, Bindra was ready to open out and speak his mind. He did know that writing a book was not as simple as speaking into a dictaphone. But that did not deter him from venturing. So dear was Indian sport to him and such was his commitment to its cause.
Bindra had broken a jinx of over a hundred years in Indian sports by winning the 10m air rifle gold. He had found the solution and was keen that the rest of the country should benefit from his experience.
Written in a vibrant tone by Rohit Brijnath, a sports writer known for his elegant style, the book is a record in itself and, at the same time, fascinating. Bindra has been quite courageous in being honest and his observations are striking for their maturity, a quality that will come only with experience.
What stands out is Bindra's willingness to step out of the comfort zone, keeping an open mind in pursuit of excellence and ever willing to try out every idea that came his way. Lesser mortals would have succumbed to the overwhelming negativity that pervades Indian sport, but Bindra overcame that, thanks to a group of people with a positive attitude whom he had struck a rapport with and looked up to for guidance. They managed to keep him on track and ensured that he moved in the right direction.
The stint he had at the U.S. Olympic centre in Colorado Springs — between the Sydney Olympics when he was the youngest shooter at 17 with a junior world record, and his shattering experience at the Athens Games, where an unstable wooden floor robbed him of a well-deserved medal — clearly helped Bindra in gaining self-confidence and enabled him to turn the pursuit of perfection into an everyday experience.
Bindra was perfecting his technique for years. The one message that made a tremendous impact on him — and written all over the venues where champions were groomed in the United States — was: “It is not every four years, it is every day.''
The letter that one of Bindra's mentors, Uwe Riesterer of Germany, wrote to him days after his disappointing performance in the Athens Games is a classic that deserves to be framed in gold. Assuring Bindra that he would be World champion in 2006, and Olympic champion in 2008, Riesterer reminds him that “it is only a game, but it is also the best school of life.” And true to his mentor's word, Bindra did become champion in that order, achieving a rare double in the world of sport, especially in air rifle shooting.
The book has quite a few hints for parents on bringing up their wards. For instance, they are told not to impose their own ambitions and aspirations on the young ones but help them nurture and realise their dreams by relieving them of all other extraneous pressures.
There is a lot for the younger generation to learn from the book. Now that education planners and administrators are keen on making ‘sports' a part of the curriculum, they would surely find this book eminently prescribable for study at all levels.