Just before the London Olympics, he forced himself to jump off a plane: hoping to train his mind to work under extreme conditions, attempting somehow to simulate the pressures of the shooting range and the way his instincts would react under duress. Before the Beijing Olympics, where he won India’s first gold, he forced himself to do commando-type rock-climbing. There has always been a special craziness about Abhinav Bindra, a single-minded pursuit of perfection in a sport that is more about the mind than any other and one that few understand. Before Incheon, Bindra didn’t announce any such out-of-the-box training gambits to achieve the kind of zen he needs to shoot but the fact that he will now semi-retire as a hobby shooter puts a full-stop – or at least a comma – in the remarkable story of India’s greatest shooter.
He is the rare Indian sportsman who not only reached the top of global excellence but by showing what could be done, also ignited a virtual revolution in his sport. More than that, he has emerged as an outspoken advocate for Indian sport in a way that few athletes do – speaking out against the problems of officialdom and the mismanagement of the IOA and the NRAI.
He could have managed his dad’s business, he could satisfied himself with low-level sporting success, he could have made excuses about facilities and management but he was never content and kept pushing the limits.
He says he will still aim for Rio but can he repeat his heady success as a hobby shooter in a competitive and unpredictable sport that is defined only by obsession and the shot of the moment? Are his two bronzes in Incheon the end of the road for this remarkable shooter from Chandigarh whose father built him his own shooting range so he could pursue his passion? Who knows? But one thing is certain. India has not seen a sportsman like him and it’s time for a salute.