Sport,they say,is a great leveller,and the adage that is probably as old as the woods,was exemplified by Gagan Gagan Narang’s success and Abhinav Bindra’s failure at the Olympic Games here today.
Bindra became the cynosure of all eyes by clinching a historic gold medal — the first by an Indian shooter in the Olympics — in the Beijing Games in 2008.
That was four summers ago,around the same time,but cut to 2012,it is Gagan Narang’s moment of glory.
Gagan Narang may have fell short by some distance in replicating what Bindra achieved in the Chinese capital,but for a success-starved sporting nation like India,a country of 1.1 billion,a bronze medal on the planet’s biggest sporting spectacle holds a lot of significance.
For the record,Gagan Narang’s medal-winning effort today was India’s first in the ongoing Games.
The unassuming 29-year-old from Hyderabad,prior to his departure for London,was hoping that he would be third time lucky after two unsuccessful attempts in 2004 Athens and Beijing.
“I have been unlucky twice,hope I get third time lucky,” Gagan Narang said.
“An athlete’s ultimate ambition is to win and I am determined to go all the way and do whatever it takes,” the genial shooter had said.
That he has finally realised his dream,is indeed the result of years of hard work,determination and some meticulous training,charted out by rifle coach Stanislav Lapidus.
Be it in the Asian Games,World Championships,World Cups or the Commonwealth Games,Gagan Narang has won everywhere,save Olympics. But more than his countless exploits at the international stage,it was the failure at Beijing that drove Gagan Narang to take a serious shot at medal in the British capital,where there was no dearth of Indian supporters.
The loud applause after every perfect shot by Gagan Narang was indication that the feel inside the 10m indoor range at the Royal Artillery Barracks was pre-dominantly Indian.
Not that he improved by leaps and bounds only after the Beijing disappointment,as Gagan Narang had entered the 2008 Games as one of the favourites,having bagged four gold medals in the 2006 Melbourne Games and setting a new world record.
Then there were four more yellow metals in the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010,two silver in the Asian Games a month later,and quite a few podium finishes in the World Cups and World Championships.
Gagan Narang also shot a new world record of 703.5 in the World Cup Finals in Bangkok,including a perfect 600 out of 600 in qualification.
Had the CWG been recognised by the International Shooting Sports Federation,Gagan Narang’s score of 703.6 would have been his second world record.
Going by his form over the past couple of years,Gagan Narang always stood a realistic chance of finishing on the podium in London. And he did.
Bindra,on the other hand,after having tasted success in Beijing,took a sabbatical before returning to the sport to have another go in London.
Having won the biggest prize in sport,there were at some point of time talks that Bindra had lost motivation to continue,and that he was contemplating retirement.
The reserved marksman,however,brushed aside such thoughts by earning an Olympic ticket last year,and followed that up with a medal in a competitive international tournament.
Bindra also had a silver medal in the Asian Games in Guangzhou,besides a gold in the Delhi CWG.
But when it mattered most,on a day when he was gunning to become the first shooter in the world to win successive gold medals in the Olympics,Bindra’s rifle failed him.