On this day in 2008: Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal

On this day in 2008, Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal in 10mtr air rifle at Beijing Olympics. Nobody before him and none after him has been able to reach to heights where Bindra reached.

Abhinav Bindra was born in Dehradun on 28 Sep 1982, to a Punjabi Hindu family. He picked up shooting at an early age. He was from a financially strong background. He wanted to train with the best possibilities, which were not available in India at that time, he would train for prolonged periods in Germany.

At 15 years of age, he was the youngest participant at 1998 Commonwealth games. He was youngest India’s participant at 2000 Sydney Olympic games. He was awarded Arjuna Award in 2000 for his consistent showing in the shooting. He grew for strength to strength and started winning medals. His rapid growth can be judged by the fact that in 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. In 2002 Commonwealth he bagged a gold and silver in pairs event and individual event respectively. In 2004 Athens Olympics he had a near-perfect score of 597 in qualification rounds and was placed third when the final round of 10 shots began. He faltered at last 10 shots and dropped to 7th position.

In 2005 he suffered a severe back injury and could not lift rifle for a year. Bindra overcame the injury and returned to win 2006 ISSF World Shooting Championships with a score of 699.1 and thus qualifying for 2008 Beijing Olympics. He had reached glorious heights in his career till then but deep inside he knew that an elusive podium finish at Olympics is still missing.

In 2004 he had done exceedingly well in qualifications but could not reach the podium. He had always wanted the elusive Olympic gold and Beijing was another golden chance to achieve the dream but he knew the margin for error was very very minute. He was placed fourth after the qualification round with a score of 596/600 points. According to the rules then, the qualification score was added to your final score and therefore a medal required a higher degree of concentration and probably more 10+ shots as one or two 9+ shots and your dream are over. Bindra knew that he had to shot 10 best shots of his life to compete for a place at the podium. His impressive series read 10.7, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.5, 10.5, 10.6, 10.0, 10.2, ending with a flawless shot, scoring 10.8 to clinch the gold medal.

It has been 12 years, but that moment remains very special for sports fans. Firstly it is still the only individual gold medal till date and it was a shot in the arm for Shooting as today India is one of the most successful countries in the world in this discipline.

As of now, as many as 15 shooters have qualified for the Tokyo Games, a new record for India. Cometh the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, with high concentration and a bit of luck, Indian shooters will be the biggest hope of repeating Bindra’s feat.