From Athens To Beijing

“Don’t look now,” Rohit Brijnath wrote more than a year ago, “but this 24-year-old who looks like a cover boy for an accountancy magazine, who pursues a sport where stillness is a virtue and muscles can get in the way, whose rare moment of recognition came from, get this, a Thai airlines purser (‘Hey, you’re the shooter’), is possibly India’s best chance of a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

Brijnath was talking of Abhinav Bindra, and boy, did he get it right. Read the full piece; this bit sent a chill up my spine:

In 2004, at the Athens Games, he got his heart torn out. He broke the Olympic record in qualifying, but shot so poorly in the eight-man final it astonished him. Later, a coach goes back to the range, to position No.3 where Bindra shot from, and finds the floor wobbly, finds it being fixed for the next final. Too late.

Bindra calls Athens “tragic” and says, honestly, painfully, “Athens bothered me for a long time”. He breathes. “But that’s life, everything’s not fair always.” Now, he insists, Athens is forgotten. At the world championships last year, he found himself, ominously, again at position No.3. Athens came flooding back, but he wore the pressure and won.

But perhaps Athens will finally be interred in Beijing.

So there you go.

In related news, the Times of India quotes AS Bindra, Abhinav’s dad, as relating the following anecdote about when Abhinav was five years old:

He kept a water balloon on our maid’s head and began shooting, knowing little that a slight mistake could have proved fatal. But his aim was so perfect that I couldn’t think about anything else but make him a pro.

I wonder what the maid felt when the boy who once shot at her ascended the podium. Relief all over again?

(ToI link via email from Subhash Kalbarga. Many other readers have asked me to comment on the rewards being bestowed on Bindra with taxpayers’ money. This old post covers my feelings on the subject, I guess.)