Col JS Dhillon (retd) still remembers the date when a 13-year-old youngster came to his home with a shooting professional to ask him about training. It was July 13, 1995. For five years since then Abhinav Bindra trained under him on the way to a glorious career.
Bindra, India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist, has decided to retire after the Rio Olympics. On Friday, he tweeted: “As my sporting career which lasted 20 years draws to a close on the 8th of August, this is indeed special.”
“He was eager about air rifle and the first few days, he would make sure that he spent extra time at my home. Seven months after he started, he won his first gold medal in Chandigarh before winning gold in Punjab Sub-Junior Championships. The same year we went to Ahmedabad where he won the gold with a score of 600/600. Some of the shooters wondered how this boy could do that. He has given India what she wanted for decades and nobody can replace him in Indian sports history,” said Dhillon.
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Son of businessman AS Bindra, Bindra showed interest in shooting while he was studying at the St Stephen’s School in Chandigarh. His parents would also meet sports psychologist Amit Bhattacharjee in 1994 to help their son in studies and later in sports motivation. Bindra would visit Bhattacharjee’s home for mental training.
“He was a very protective child and would spend time with for homework and studies,” said Bhattacharjee, who is now research officer at PGI, Chandigarh. “He would train for more than six hours daily.”
From being the youngest Indian at Sydney in 2000 to finishing the final at the last spot after coming in third in qualification at Athens, Bindra would also become the first Indian shooter to win a gold medal at Zagreb in 2006. And the then-26-year-old recovered from a fourth-place in qualification to claim India’s historic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bhatacharjee remembers Bindra talking with Uwe Riesterer about commando training a week before Beijing event. “During Athens, when he failed to get a medal in the final, he was disappointed but we spent some time together. Once in 2002, when Anjali Bhagwat won the champions of champions award, he would say, “Log trophy le ke ja rahe hain and I am taking a pair of shoes to home”. Later at the Beijing Olympics, There was some problem with his gun before the final but to come back and shot scores of ten’s speaks of his talent,” added the mental trainer. “Before the Sydney Olympics, he received more than 10,000 greeting cards for wishes. He has some cards even now and I also keep a file of them. That’s where his Olympic dream took shape. Shooting is what he has done most of his life and he would definitely like to end his career with a gold medal at Rio Olympics.”