Abhinav Bindra’s perseverance and determination took him all the way to the top of the Olympic podium, but the man who won India’s first-ever individual Olympic gold medal believes it is just as important to enjoy the journey, as it is the rewards.
Being an Olympic athlete is all about perseverance; it’s about working hard and pushing yourself every single day. The Olympic Games may only be once every four years, but it’s not every four years for an athlete; it’s every single day that they have to push themselves ahead. For me, every day was important in my pursuit of being the best that I could be. What you achieve at the Olympic Games is dependent on what you have done in the four years leading up to that point, so it is important to work hard when nobody is watching.
Learn from defeat
I broke an Olympic record at the Olympic Games Athens 2004, but there were some technical problems and I didn’t actually go on and win the gold medal. While those memories are associated with loss, they also taught me many things. The experience in Athens gave me a huge life lesson on how to deal with loss and how to overcome failure. Sometimes things happen in life when you are not completely in control of the situation, and Athens was one such situation. It also taught me about detachment from the outcome and the importance of focusing on the process. That was one of the main reasons why I succeeded at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008, because I was so process-driven. I was not so concerned about the outcome.
Accept what you can’t control
My experiences at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 taught me a lot about acceptance. I think acceptance is something that is very important not only in an athlete’s life, but also in everybody’s life. It’s important to accept reality and accept certain situations and not resist them; we must work with the situations we face. In sport, my Olympic experiences taught me how to adapt, how to accept situations and work with different situations. Sometimes the odds are with you, sometimes they’re against you, but you have to work and find a way to be your best in all circumstances.
Enjoy the process
As an athlete, it’s important to enjoy what you do. I think it’s the passion for the process of performing in your particular sport and executing your technique, your task, whatever it is you have to do. That is where the real joy lies, and I think that’s where I would tell athletes to enjoy that process and to appreciate that process and remain committed to that process. If you do that, then success will definitely be yours.
Appreciate the journey
I was in sport for 22 years and I knew it was the right time to retire after Rio. Twenty-two years is a long time, and I thought it was the right time to perhaps look at life after a sporting career. I also recognised my fading talent. I was getting older and it was getting tougher, but more than anything, I think it was just a decision to move on in life. I was totally focused on my sport for 22 years with single-minded focus and determination; I did not do too many other things in life. I got to a moment where I thought, “Now, this journey is over.” There is also a lot of talent in my country. It was the right time to hand it over to the others to take it forward.