Shooting star Abhinav - from a child prodigy to an Olympic gold medallist (Profile)

August 11th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra

Beijing, Aug 11 (IANS) Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra has a knack of creating history. He has done it again in Beijing. From being the country’s first world champion in shooting to emerging as its maiden individual Olympic gold medallist, the 24-year-old Abhinav has displayed nerves of steel and a dogged determination over the years to attain the highest sporting glory.

Growing up in an affluent Chandigarh family, Abhinav had the advantage of a private shooting range at home, but the mild mannered shooter has always been down to earth and kept a low profile despite his success at various international events.

It has been a tough journey to Beijing for the ’silent killer’, as his father A.S. Bindra calls him.

Abhinav bravely fought a career-threatening back injury, which forced him to opt out of the Doha Asian Games. He booked his Beijing berth by winning the 2006 World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia - a first by an Indian.

And Monday he lived up to the expectations of a million fans back home to give the country its first Olympics gold in 28 years after the men’s hockey team’s triumph in Moscow, 1980.

Right from his childhood, Abhinav showed promise, and became the youngest Indian participant at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics he was also India’s youngest Olympian at 16.

He hit a purple patch in 2001, winning a flurry of medals in Europe and was also conferred the nation’s highest sporting award - the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

In the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, Abhinav bagged gold in the pairs event and silver in the individual event. He narrowly missed a medal at the Athens Olympics despite breaking the world record.

After double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s silver in Athens, the pressure was on shooters here to keep the country’s flag flying high. This being his third Olympics, the focus was on Abhinav as well.

Abhinav didn’t let the pressure choke him as he held his nerves Monday in a crunch situation to bring back smiles on the faces of a billion fans back home.

At the final in the Beijing Range, Abhinav was tied with Finnish shooter Henri Hakkinen for the first place, but the Indian secured the gold with his best shot of the final - an outstanding 10.8.

In contrast, Hakkinen’s last shot was also his worst, a lowly 9.7, which allowed China’s Zhu Quinan to beat the Finn and take the silver. Zhu, the defending champion, shot 10.5 in his last shot.

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