Olympic Review continues its countdown to the 2012 Games with exclusive interviews with stars of the 26 sports on the programme, who are targeting gold in London. The rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra became the first Indian to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event when he triumphed in the men’s 10m air rifle in Beijing.
What was it like to win the first individual Olympic gold for India?
I enjoyed that time immensely and all the fanfare. Before Beijing, very few people recognised me but since my gold medal, I get more attention, no doubt about that.
What was the main driving force behind your Olympic success?
I didn’t want to win an Olympic gold to become famous or to enjoy the life of a celebrity.
I wanted to be the best in the world and wanted to prove that I can not only perform but also win in the world’s greatest sporting arena. For me, it was pure passion for the sport that inspired me.
How has your life changed since winning gold in Beijing?
My life has changed dramatically in that the only goal I had for a majority of my life has been achieved – to win an Olympic gold medal. So, I have had to refocus and start the process and the journey again.
Did you struggle for motivation having achieved your lifelong ambition?
Yes, after the Beijing triumph, a void came into my life for a period. However, I was able to regain my motivation and start rising at six a.m. each day to train again last year.
Why did you choose shooting?
I was a chubby 12-year-old boy who hated all sport! My parents worried about my complete lack of interest and, after much deliberation, a sporty uncle was entrusted with the monumental task of introducing me to the joys of sport. Rifle shooting caught my fancy immediately, primarily because you just had to stand as still as possible!
Given India’s obsession with cricket, have you been able to raise awareness of the various Olympic disciplines?
I have tried my utmost to spread the word about the importance of Olympic sport. I have spoken very strongly, at every opportunity, about the needs of our very talented athletes, the importance of professionalism and the need for an Olympic programme. I am very proud that I have stood up and spoken about the importance of moving on after my gold in Beijing. I am committed to continue doing so.
Are you going to try a different route to achieve glory in London or will you stick to the formula, which brought you success in Beijing?
A sportsperson changes over a period of time. They evolve over time and have to be flexible if they want to have any chance to achieve success. I climbed to the top of the mountain. Now I must climb back down this mountain and then try and climb it again.
Will you be competing in any other events in London along with defending your 10m title?
I am considering the 50 metres rifle 3 positions but I have to decide yet.
You flew in an F-16 airplane last year. How was that?
After competing at the Olympic Games, it was the most exhilarating experience, I’ve ever had.