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.
“I am not disappointed at all. I think the journey for me in the last four years has been fantastic,” he said.
The shooter seems to have rediscovered his accuracy in the range at the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he won the gold before tweeting a picture of the medal, captioned: “Something for my nephew to play with.”
Many have found him aloof but Bindra, who has seen how fickle fans can be, could not care less.
“I’m not searching for acknowledgement, aloofness is my protection,” Bindra wrote in his autobiography, “A Shot At History: My Obsessive Journey To Olympic Gold.”
This aloofness helps him shut everything else out and, like a method actor, subject himself to self-inflicted pains to explore the limits of his craft.
“I want to grasp weaponry, absorb technique, break down balance, examine the sporting brain. I want to unscramble shooting, I want to turn greatness into an experiment,” he wrote.
Bindra will once again pick up the rifle in Incheon, free from the fear of failure and the lure of success and enter that zone where nothing separates him from the target.
It is the process and not the outcome which is important, insists the fiercely private shooter.
“In sports there is just one guarantee that there is no guarantee for any success. You can put in a lot of work, you can put in a lot of effort, you can put in a lot but who knows if you will ever win a medal?” Bindra told the NDTV channel recently.
“For me, the joy lies in the journey, the joy lies in the struggle, the joy lies in getting to it.”
“I’m not so outcome-driven. Of course I want all the gold medals but the outcome is not necessarily my biggest high. My biggest high is working hard and that journey towards success.”
Editing by Ian Ransom