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

August 11th, 2008 - 6:06 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 11 (IANS) Rifleman Abhinav Bindra created history firing India’s first-ever individual Olympic gold medal Monday, tiggering celebrations among the Indians here. 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 metres air rifle event at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall.

Bindra’s gold came 28 years after India last won it at the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the men’s hockey team came on top of the heap.

As if inspired by Bindra’s gold, teen prodigy Saina Nehwal produced a stunner in the women’s sigles of the badminton competition 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.

There was also some disappointment in store as Anthresh Lakra lost his featherweight (57 kg) boxing bout to Sultonov Bahodirjon of Uzbekistan 5-9 in the round of 32.

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 had 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 along 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.

Saina got off the blocks in a flash taking a 4-1 lead in the first game before Wang bounced back to pocket four points in a row and keep her nose in front. It was a see-saw battle from there on as neither player was ready to concede an inch.

Saina was up 12-10 but Wang again took five successive points to go up 15-12. Wang was looking to wrap up the game at 19-16 but Saina had other plans. The Indian turned on the heat to take the next five points to shut out Wang and take a 1-0 lead.

Stung by the reverse, Wang came back hard and did not give the Indian much chance in the second game wrapping it at 21-11 in just 14 minutes to take the match to the decider.

Saina raised her game and opened up a 6-0 lead in the third game. Wang was under pressure and started making unforced errors as Saina went up 12-4 and 15-7. From there on it was a matter of time before Saina pulled off the biggest win of her career.

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