10m air rifle qualifying round.
Two Indian Olympic medalists are participating. First series of shots are fired. Gagan Narang, the bronze winner in London 2012, leads. Abhinav Bindra, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold medalist, doesn’t even come in top 10. There are Italians, Chinese, Americans and all those countries that tore the USSR into pieces, competing. Next rounds of shots begin. Gagan begins his parachute fall and ends up at No.23. Disappointment. It’s okay, he has 2 more events left. Bindra, on the other hand, goes up and down. Given the fickle nature of this sport, you can’t expect anything but topsy-turvy. With a string of 10.8s, he ends up in top 8. Boom. Bang. Qualifies for the finals.
I followed all these, during the journey back home in the Bangalore traffic. My Twitter TL was an explosion of sorts. I kept refreshing it every half a second. When was the last time that a grossly unpopular sport was making me nervously excited? Or for that matter, when was the last time, an entire nation followed shooting from the edge of their seats? This must be the waves of change. Or even Tsunamis of change. But do you know who is responsible for all this? It’s the same man Bindra, who out of no where, made sure that the Indian National anthem was played at an Olympic arena after 28 years. One gold in 2008 became a silver and bronze in London. Shooting became a household name. And that to me, will remain Abhinav Bindra’s biggest achievement.
Abhinav Bindra is more than all the role models put together. The stories about his preparations are unthinkable. You need a stronger word than perseverance to describe that. If you get time or are struggling in life, grab a copy of his autobiography. You’ll feel inspired to do something worthy in life.
10m air rifle final
Shooters take positions. Few rounds of shots before the elimination begins. First round ends. Bindra is at 7. On the verge of elimination. A whole nation is concerned. Everyone watching the India-Germany hockey match has changed TV channels. Ukrainian shooter is eliminated. Next set of shots follow. Live coverage shows only the Russian, Hungarian and Croatian shooters. We are livid. How is an Indian shooter less important , you rascist pigs? But we do hear a huge roar after every shot. The scorecard after every 2 rounds indicate that Bindra is making a dramatic progress. At one point, he climbs as high as No.2. Only 4 shooters are in the fray. 3 of them will win a medal, for sure. Prayers begin. Across regions. Across religions. A whole nation is united at last. Bindra shoots and so are the other three. The score card gets some major shuffling. Bindra 4th. Russian 3rd. Italian 2nd. Ukrainian 1st. One more shot and we will have the bronze medalist. Bindra spikes up 10.2. Russian manages only 10. It’s a tie. Like that India Pakistan T20. They go into the
superover tie-breaker. One shot each. Bindra hits 10. He is expression less. But the shot is excruciatingly less. A billion heart beats stop. All eyes are on the 22 year old Russian. He pauses, sets himself and shoots 10.5. It’s all over. There is depression all around. Another Olympic event and another South-African-cricket-team-at-world-cups moment. Stories of PT Usha in 1984 Los Angeles go flashing by. Another “missed by a whisker” result. Seconds later, Germany score the winner against India with 3 seconds left. Brain freeze. Tears. And the pain. The entire system must be meant to jinx us, our Olympians.
The wait for the 27th medal continues…..
As heartbreak eases, it’s time to say “Thank you Abhinav Bindra for all the inspiration. Yours has been an inspirational journey. I’ll keep going back to your autobiography….. “.