Bindra shoots to golden glory, Saina stuns Wang (India, Second Lead)

August 11th, 2008 - 10:53 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra
By V.Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 11 (IANS) India’s new sporting icon, shooter Abhinav Bindra sent the nation into delirious celebrations by bagging the country’s first-ever individual gold medal at the Olympics. Keeping his composure in a crunch situation, Bindra came up with a near perfect 10.8 in his final shot to ensure a top podium finish in the 10-metre air rifle event at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall.

Bindra’s gold, coming 28 years after India last won it at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the men’s hockey team came on top of the heap, put the nation in the medals tally on day three of the competition at the 29th Olympic Games here.

As if inspired by Bindra’s gold, teen prodigy Saina Nehwal produced a stunner in the women’s singles of badminton by outlasting world No. 6 Wang Chen of Hong Kong 21-19, 11-21, 21-11 to storm into the quarterfinals at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium here.

However, the other Indian participants disappointed. Injured tennis star Sania Mirza pulled out of the first round women’s singles match against Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic, while men’s badminton player Anup Sridhar bowed out of the singles race in the second round. There was also bad news from the ring, pool and the sailing centre.

Save the hockey 1980 gold, India had no medal to show till Leander Paes got the tennis bronze at Atlanta in 1996. He was followed by woman weightlifter Karnam Malleswari who won a bronze at the 200 Sydney Games. Then the progression to silver four years later in Athens by Rajyavardhan Rathore’ in double trap.

Bindra (596), who qualified for the final as the fourth best, shot the best series of final 10 shots for 104.5 and a total of 700.5 on way to his golden finish.

Defending champion, Zhu Qinan of China, who broke in tears after losing on his home turf, totalled 699.7 with 597 in qualification and 102.7 in the final, finished second.

Finnish armyman Henri Hakkinen, who led the qualification with a brilliant 598, had to be content with the bronze. In the final he came a cropper with 101.4 points and in particular the last shot of 9.7 was the one that did him in.

Another Indian in fray, Gagan Narang narrowly missed qualifying for the eight-man final as he finished ninth in qualifications despite tying for fifth place with four others at 595. The others moved up as Narang lost out on countback.

Twentyfive-year-old Bindra’s golden saga has twists and turns in his career. It was a fairytale ending for someone who a year ago was not sure whether he would ever lift a rifle let alone go to the Olympics. After the Athens Olympics, the Chandigarh boy was immobilised by a severe back problem and doubts crept into his mind whether it was worth the effort to carry on with his passion of shooting despite all the pain.

After much soul-searching and serious thinking, Bindra decided to brave it all. He started his trek back to the Olympic dream once again. He took the first big step when he became the first Indian to win a World Championship in Zagreb.

“For me the last four years have been tough. After Athens it was hard to take the plunge all over again. But I decided to take it. I worked hard and went for it. There’s not much to say except that you keep at it, and at it. One day it falls in your hand. That’s what happened. I have had a lot of support from many people and one of them (coach J S Dhillon) is here.”

Going into the final, two points behind the Hakkinen, Bindra said matter-of-factly: “I wasn’t thinking about history. I was lying two points behind the leader. I just wanted to shoot and I wanted to shoot aggressively and that’s what I did.”

On the badminton court, Saina pulled off a nerve-wracking victory over world No.6 and fourth seed Wang.

Eighteen-year-old Saina showed nerves of steel to stave off the fierce challenge of the experienced Wang, who had a 2-0 head-to-head record against the Indian. Saina, who has grown up dreaming of an Olympic medal, fought like a champion and showed maturity beyond her years in knocking out the highly rated Wang.

But things did not simply go Sania Mirza’s way. After being in the centre of the dress controversy - as she wore trousers for the opening ceremony marchpast - Sania was forced to concede her first round singles due to the recurrence of pain in her injured right wrist.

Sania left the court after 46 minutes as she trailed Czech Republic’s Iveta Benesova 1-6, 1-2. Unable to bear the pain, she left the court weeping. Sania Mirza is now a doubtful starter even for Tuesday’s doubles match in which she partners Sunitha Rao.

In swimming, Rehan Poncha finished second in his heat but had to make an exit from the race as his timing (2:01.89) was a poor 40th among 44 swimmers.

Nachhatar Singh Johal could not do much in sailing, as he found himself in the 23rd place among 26 competitors after six races in the Finn category.

In boxing, Anthresh Lakra lost his featherweight (57 kg) boxing bout to Sultonov Bahodirjon of Uzbekistan 5-9 in the round of 32.

Sridhar went down in straight games 13-21 and 17-21 to Japanese Shoji Sato in the second round.

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