SHOOT­ING STAR

The pas­sion and pro­gres­sion of the man with the golden gun in his own in­spir­ing words

India Today - - LEISURE - By Shan­tanu Guha Ray

Aday af­ter Ab­hi­nav Bin­dra won the 10 m air ri­fle gold, In­dia’s first in 28 years, many ath­letes asked him at the Bei­jing Olympic Games vil­lage: what next? Bin­dra, wit­ness to China’s emer­gence as an ath­letic pow­er­house, could not think about a sport rev­o­lu­tion back home in In­dia with just one Olympic gold. Still, he proudly said the foun­da­tion for one may be form­ing. There will be more than one gold for In­dia at 2012 Lon­don, Bin­dra said con­fi­dently. He dis­plays this very as­sur­ance in his mem­oirs.

The book starts with the plight of a shooter— Bin­dra him­self—who could not bear the shame of fin­ish­ing sev­enth at the 2004 Athens Olympics. At that point, an­other four years to Bei­jing seemed ex­haust­ing. The loss made Bin­dra think of re­tire­ment at 20. He came to win the gold, yet left want­ing to vomit. En­raged, he al­most threw away his gun.

But he didn’t. And that was the turn­ing point in Bin­dra’s life, which he nar­rates bril­liantly: Gaby Buehlmann, Bin­dra’s long-time Ger­man coach, told him that the shoot­ing floor at Athens had a slight bounce, which meant Bin­dra was doomed the mo­ment he stood on the tiles. How could the gods be so cruel, wept Bin­dra. Gaby teased him, “Be­come a Catholic, learn to be on your knees.” Bin­dra found his feet again.

Bin­dra’s con­sul­tant coach Uwe Ri­esterer helped the shooter steady his los­ing grip. A let­ter from him con­tained over 2,000 words but three lines made tremen­dous sense to Bin­dra: “You are next in line! World Cham­pion in 2006. Olympic Cham­pion in 2008.” Bin­dra re­gained fo­cus and two in­ci­dents changed his world. At the Zargeb World Cham­pi­onship in 2006, Bin­dra re­mem­bered his child­hood days of shoot­ing pa­per tar­gets un­der a tree when he was on the fi­nal shot. It was one trig­ger pull away from great­ness. Crack, came the sound. With 10.7 on board, Bin­dra was World Cham­pion. Two years later in Bei­jing, Bin­dra found him­self in that place of reck­on­ing—that bril­liant, ter­ri­fy­ing place that haunts ev­ery ath­lete be­fore the big day.

As he aimed for the fi­nal shot, Bin­dra re­mem­bered his mother. He picked up his ri­fle and touched the trig­ger. It was over fast, as close to per­fect as you can get; 10.8 points on the board was enough to guar­an­tee gold. The book shows how sim­ply get­ting on with life is one of the best ways to counter grief. Dis­cov­ery ar­rives in the strangest of places. At the odd­est of times.

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