India's gun-toting Zen master Bindra seeks Asian glory

Mon Sep 8, 2014 3:27am EDT
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By Amlan Chakraborty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - His impressive record notwithstanding, the uncertainties of modern sport leave Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra no guarantee of a first Asian Games gold in Incheon this month.

What can be assured is that the bespectacled 31-year-old will emerge from the Ongnyeon International Shooting Range having treated the twin imposters of triumph and disaster just the same.

Known for his Zen-like poise and preparation bordering on self-flagellation, Bindra has mastered the art of defying expectations from a nation of 1.2 billion that has rarely tasted success in Olympic sport.

Six years back, Bindra ended independent India's agonising six-decade wait for an individual Olympic gold medal at Beijing, winning the 10m air rifle event.

His success came not because of any system but in spite of it. Coming from a wealthy family did help but more importantly, it was a family that believed in funding his dreams even though shooting is not a particularly rewarding sport in cricket-crazy India.

In a country where athletes have been notoriously late to embrace technology, Bindra underwent commando training, had his brain mapped and even designed his own shoes to find the right balance.

His relentless pursuit for perfection paid off in Beijing but Bindra could not even qualify for the final of the event in the next Olympics in London where he was eclipsed by compatriot Gagan Narang who won the bronze.

Bindra's stoic response to the failure was as remarkable as his muted celebration in Beijing where he merely pumped his fist and hugged his coach.   Continued...

Former Olympic men's 10m air rifle gold medallist Abhinav Bindra attends a ceremony in New Delhi August 26, 2008.    REUTERS/Vijay Mathur