Six years ago, during a chat session open to the public on an Indian Internet portal, shooting prodigy Abhinav Bindra faced a barrage of questions from mostly appreciative fans. Bindra had then just returned from a successful outing at the 2002 Commonwealth Games at Manchester, where he had won a gold and silver.
During the session, Bindra handled praise with maturity, but what stood out most was his quiet confidence. When someone asked him if he ever expected to win a gold medal, Bindra’s response was simple: “Honestly, yes.”
Yesterday, Bindra won the Olympic gold medal in the 10m men’s air rifle event. He has broken a curse that strangled India at the Olympics since the inception of the modern Games—it was our first individual gold medal in 108 years of participation.
While it is a proud moment for Bindra and for the country, there are two lessons sports administrators can and must take from this success.
First, Bindra’s success will not automatically mean a revolution in Indian shooting. Before Bindra’s success, shooters such as Rajyavardhan Rathore and Jaspal Rana became national stars on the back of their successes on the international stage.
Yet, their celebrity was short-lived, and when their stars dimmed, so did the sport. Bindra’s success is an opportunity to take the sport to a much wider audience.
Much like China’s Project 119 to develop talent in select sports, India must also build world-class programmes in sports such as shooting, where youngsters have role models to look up to.
Second, Bindra’s success must be seen in the light of the context in which he trains. In addition to a supply of guns, thanks to a father in the military, Bindra also has a captive shooting range right at home which he uses to train. Not many sportsmen, leave alone shooters, have such facilities.
This perhaps means that among our hordes of budding athletes, there hide more Abhinav Bindras—young girls and boys who have the ability but lack systemic support.
Bindra’s gold medal needs to be celebrated. Flags must be waved and speeches must be made. But let us also sense the opportunity we have here and strike deeper where even more gold awaits.
How do we nurture more Abhinav Bindras? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org