It could have been a poignant moment, it wasn’t. It could have been an emotional one, it wasn’t. The Bindra family was seated in the front row of the felicitation that was due to start, barely a kilometre away from Dr Karni Singh Range. Yet, it was a moment full of pride and happiness. India’s lone individual gold medallist has finally laid down his arms. Not going down in the blaze of Olympic glory as envisaged, but still, bringing an end to a glorious part of his life—a journey with head held high, and most importantly, with no regrets.
Abhinav Bindra, who came fourth in the recently concluded Rio Olympics was honoured by the shooting community for taking Indian shooting to glorious heights. Speaking on the occasion, Bindra, in his stoic voice said, “I came 4th in Rio; this performance has given me great closure. I put my absolute best. I could have done nothing more; knowing this gives me the closure.”
His father Apjit Singh Bindra, mother Babli, younger sister Divya were present on the occasion and were completely with the former Olympic and world champion in his decision to call it quits as a competing athlete. “We are totally happy with his decision. It's time for him to move on, start another chapter in his life,” said Babli.
Raninder Singh, president of the National Rifle Association of India, urged all shooters present at the function to learn from Bindra. “Look at how he trains, look at his discipline, his focus.” Those present included shooters Apurvi Chandela, Ayonika Paul, Manavjeet Singh Sandhu, Ronjan Sodhi, Sanjeev Rajput and Bindra’s former teammates Suma Shirur and Mansher Singh.
“I have to earn a living, get involved in business, put food on plate,” he replied in jest, when asked what next. On a more serious note, he mentioned that he has plans to get involved in sports. “Sports doesn’t give you much money. But I am involved in health and fitness and trying to do something on high performance side of sport. I like to struggle and I have to start from scratch," said Bindra, who will also get involved in the family business.
“I don’t think there is a legacy I am leaving behind; it's not for me to decide,” said Bindra when asked to describe his legacy. However, he has a vision for Indian sports, something he is very keen to share and be involved in. Currently, he is part of the review committee set up by NRAI to look into Rio failures and its reasons, and suggest systemic as well as structural changes needed in coaching and competing systems. The committee has already met thrice in right earnest and will be interacting with all shooting stakeholders in the coming days.
“I am not interested in looking at the past but in looking at how we can improve. We must learn how we can do better,” said Bindra. “60-70% of the core of your team for Tokyo Olympics in 2020 is already there. We need to go beyond that point.”
He stressed on focusing on grassroots in sports and need to approach it with patience and dedication to get desired results. Medals, he reiterated, will not come overnight.
The occasion also saw the launch of the International Shooting Sports Federation accredited Training Academy at the Manav Rachna International University in Faridabad which will run certified courses for coaches—an absolute necessity in India which faces a serious crunch in quality coaching at the grassroot level.
It's not as if he has quit shooting totally. Soon after his return from Rio, he went back to his shooting range at home in Zirakhpur. Giving him company was his little nephew who has declared that he, too, wants to be a shooter like his uncle.