It’s difficult to comprehend that before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that India – the world’s second most populous nation – had never won an individual gold medal on the greatest sporting stage of all.
India’s field hockey team had enjoyed golden moments but never had an athlete taken the limelight on his or her own until shooter Abhinav Bindra held his nerve in the men’s 10m air rifle event.
Bindra had shown a prodigious talent from an early age and, encouraged by his parents who installed a shooting range at their home, he represented India at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur at the age of just 16.
He was the youngest member of the Indian team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, but only after those Games did he begin to exhibit the dead-eye focus required by the world’s elite shots.
Backed not just by his family but also by government and corporate funding, Bindra bagged a silver medal in the individual event at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, and then the gold medal with his partner in the pairs.
Despite qualifying in third place for the final at the Athens Olympics, he could only finish seventh and when a back problem hampered his ability to shoot comfortably there were real doubts about whether he could achieve the Olympic gold.
Victory in the 2006 world championships in Zagreb, despite the lingering back issue, gave him the belief that he could go and win the biggest title of them all.
When the world’s best convened at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall at the 2008 Olympic Games, defending champion and home favourite Zhu Qinan was fancied to add to his Athens gold.
Bindra qualified in fifth place but in the final he truly turned on the style.
Bindra never scored less than 10 with any of his shots in the final and when he was tied with Finn Henry Hakkinen he produced his best shot of the day with a 10.8 to seal an emotional gold medal - and a country long overdue individual success celebrated in style.