Thanks to the 25-year old Abhinav Bindra, India can finally celebrate the winning of its first individual Olympic gold medal 61 years after Independence. However, it would be premature to infer, as some TV news-channels are doing, that the winning of the first individual gold medal means that an Olympic culture has finally taken root in India. In fact, during his interaction with the media after striking gold at Beijing in the 10m air-rifle event, Abhinav himself pointed out that “Olympic sports is not given priority in India”.
Again, the first person to embrace Abhinav after his gold-medal winning feat was his Swiss coach Gabrielle Buhlmann, who had participated in the 50m air-rifle event at the 2004 Olympics. Abhinav has been doing most of his training in Germany, where he had earlier shot for clubs in the professional league to pay for a full-time coach. An Olympic shooting gold requires not just marksmanship but perfect control over muscle tension, breathing and trigger-pressure since even the slightest twitch could turn a medal into dust!
Granted, Abhinav’s initial success in winning the national championships at the age of 15 was due to his talent and the encouragement by an affluent father. However, in the year 2001, he estimated that converting a prodigy into an Olympic gold medallist would require an investment of Rs 1.20 crore, including Rs 30 lakh for participation in competitions abroad, Rs 20 lakh for a coach and training, and Rs 14 lakh for special food supplements and a mental-management course at the institute in Texas. Abhinav had reached the finals at the Sydney Olympics.
This time around, the funding constraint has been somewhat eased for Indian Olympians with the Mittal Champions’ Trust — an initiative by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal — chipping in with $10 million and with former badminton and billiards champs Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi setting up an Olympic Gold Quest Foundation respectively. Bindra’s gold shows how globalisation can take a relentless individual quest for excellence to the pinnacle of international sporting success.
7 months ago