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Updated: August 22, 2009 15:45 IST

Olympic glory is a long path: Bindra

Nandakumar Marar
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Olympic shooting Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The Hindu Olympic shooting Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Abhinav Bindra, nation’s first individual Olympic champion at Beijing 2008, says in this interview that the Olympics is the greatest platform for sport and success on such a stage will inspire more youngsters to dream of winning Olympic medals.

Abhinav Bindra, in Mumbai to receive the Rajiv Gandhi National Award for outstanding achievers in various fields, believes Indians have a natural flair for shooting. The nation’s first individual Olympic champion at Beijing 2008, he says that the Olympics is the greatest platform for sport and success on such a stage will inspire more youngsters to dream of winning Olympic medals.

For that to happen, he asks India to be patient with its Olympics hopefuls. “It happens too frequently that after a couple of poor performances, athletes are dumped. That's unfair as Olympic glory is a long path,” points out Bindra, who experienced the agony at Athens 2004, then worked out his own path to the top over four years and backed by supreme self-belief, cracked the 10m air rifle gold at Beijing.

He expressed appreciation for BCCI’s decision to extend financial support to other sports and contribute to the National Sports Development Fund. Bindra urged Indian corporates to back their Olympic team and asked federations to be professional in marketing their sport.

Receiving the award alongwith Bindra at the NCPA were go-getters from other fields like ISRO chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair, philanthropist Rajashree Birla and actress Katrina Kaif.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: You charted your own course about preparations for Beijing 2008, wisened by the Athens 2004 experience. How patient must India be with its present and future Olympic hopefuls before their talent translates into medals?

Answer: We sure have the talent. What the athletes need is systematic nurturing and a consistent belief in their abilities. It happens too frequently that after a couple of poor performances, athletes are dumped. That's unfair as Olympic glory is a long path. They must be backed and given the moral support and security so that it becomes easier for them to back their abilities.

Indian football will benefit from a Rs 25-crore grant from the BCCI. Though football needs help to catch up, should the donor be focusing on sports which have won individual Olympic medals (shooting, tennis, boxing, wrestling, women’s weightlifting) for the nation?

It is a positive step. The BCCI also donated Rs. 50 crore to the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) I learnt. It is kind of them. Surely it makes sense to focus on key potential sports and also start development programmes for the others.

Shooting won back-to-back Olympic medals for India. Rathore silver at Athens, Bindra gold at Beijing. Women’s weightlifting went downhill despite Karnam Malleshwari’s success at Sydney 2000, tennis is still searching for a player to come close to Leander Paes' bronze at Atlanta 1994. Is shooting better equipped to take off from here?

There is a lot of improvement in terms of exposure and infrastructure. What is missing is top class coaching at various levels. Sportspersons at the grassroots must get world class exposure in terms of coaches, facilities, physical trainers and mental trainers so that a strong foundation is laid at the base. That's the key to success.

Olympic sports in India depend on government support for funding to create infrastructure and provide exposure. Can sports federations connected with Olympic disciplines look at other avenues for revenue? Like a national lottery to fund sports development or grants from BCCI?

Sure, sports federations must try and get corporate backing. I urge the corporate world to back their Olympic team. Sports federations must try to be professional in trying to market their sport.

Shooting can interest more sponsors and attract television coverage, like Formula One drivers and FI cars do now, if more space is opened up for displaying sponsor logos on equipment and clothing

during competition. Your comment…

It is legal to display sponsor logos, the sport needs to be marketed. You cannot get a better opportunity to do that than back-to-back Olympic medals. I hope the concerned do not miss the opportunity.

P.T. Usha is on record about getting queries from parents on whether shooting was also being taught at her athletics school, Usha School of Athletics? This was after your Beijing Olympic Games gold. She had to convince parents that athletics was her speciality. Your reaction?

It’s nice to know that the Olympic gold medal generated so much interest. I only wish the sport of shooting was more reachable and there were training centres all over the country where youngsters could go and try shooting. I believe we as a community have natural talent in the sport.

Every Indian felt proud that day when you stepped on the victory podium at Beijing. What do you consider as your best reward?

For me my journey of the last 15 years was my greatest reward. The time spent on the firing line was my best education and life lesson. The World Championship and Olympic gold medals were mere outcomes for me, there was so much more to it. I do believe the aura of the Olympics is the greatest platform for sport and when one achieves success there it is sure to fire up the imagination of the youth.

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