Bindra ends India’s wait for individual Olympic gold (Second Lead)

August 11th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Abhinav Bindra
By V. Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 11 (IANS) Shooter Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal by claiming top honours in the men’s 10 m air rifle at the Beijing Olympic Games Monday. Keeping his composure in a crunch situation, Bindra came up with a near perfect 10.8 in his final shot during the final at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall to give the country its first Olympic gold 28 years after the men’s hockey team emerged champion in the Moscow Olympics, 1980.

Save the hockey gold, India went medal-less in the world’s biggest sporting stage from 1972 to 1992, and since 1996 have managed only three individual olympic medals - Leander Paes’s bronze in tennis in 1996, Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in women’s weightlifting in 2000 and Rajyavardhan Rathore’s silver in double trap shooting in 2004.

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

The defending champion Zhu Qinan of China had to be content with the silver, and broke into tears after losing on his home turf. Zhu totalled 699.7 with 597 in qualification and 102.7 in the final.

Left clutching the bronze was Finnish armyman Henri Hakkinen, who had led the qualification with a brilliant 598. In the final he came a cropper with 101.4 and it was the last shot of 9.7 that precisely did him in.

Gagan Narang narrowly missed getting into 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.

Bindra, a veteran of three Olympic Games at just 24 years, buried the ghosts of the 2004 Olympics, where he entered the final as the third placed and then shot poorly in the final to finish seventh leading to questions on whether he was prone to succumbing to the pressure of a high-profile final.

After much soul-searching, Bindra started his trek back to the Olympics once again. The first big step came when he became the first Indian to win the World Championships in Zagreb - with a superb 10.7 on his last shot - in the final series.

There was a time after the Athens Olympics when Bindra had such a severe back problem that he had even considered whether to continue with the sport. But the Zagreb World Championship gold medal got him going again.

On Monday, Bindra entered the final as the fourth placed and then shot the series of a life time.

In shooting there is a 10 point ring (bull) and in the final, the ring is further divided into nine rings with the innermost fetching 10.9.

Here, banishing all previous negative thoughts, Bindra displayed amazing nerves in the final series ‘punching’ a hole in the 10 ring on each of the 10 shots. His first and last shots - 10.7 and 10.8 - were close to perfection which is attained at 10.9.

Hakkinen, needing a 10.8 in his final shot to tie with Bindra, had his poorest 9.7 on the final shot, and slipped to bronze.

Earlier in the qualification round, Gagan Narang, despite a perfect 100 in his last series, was edged out of the final on a countback. With Hakkinen at top with 598 and Qinan at 597, Bindra and Ain George Moldoveanu of Romania had 596 each.

Narang was tied with five shooters at 595, with only four more places available in the final, leading to elimination on countback. Narang had a 98 in the fifth series and was therefore pushed down to ninth. Sergeui Kruglov (595) had a 100 in the last series, while three others Peter Sidi (Hungary), Konstantin Prikhodthenko (Russia) and Stevan Pletikosic (Serbia) had a 99 each.

Eight years ago in Sydney, Bindra was the youngest in the contingent and lost in the qualification but four years later he made the final in Athens.

Bindra had entered the final in third place at Athens with 597, but shot poorly in the final with 97.6 and finished a disappointing seventh. He had then said: “I gave my Olympic dream a real good shot. I did everything possible but it is unfortunate that I did not win any medal. But I won’t be satisfied till I achieve my goal and that is to win an Olympic medal.”

On Monday night, he can go to sleep content with the thought that he had indeed achieved his biggest goal and now maybe it is time to set the bar higher and add more gold medals.

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