Rio de Janeiro: It was the last mega show of Abhinav Bindra’s illustrious shooting career. And he had all the tricks up his sleeve to enthrall the large audience around the world glued to their television sets.
Every time he was pushed to limits — during qualifying stage or finals — by his opponents, he came up with 10-plus pointers to survive in the field here at the Olympic Shooting Centre here on Monday.
However, it was the shoot-off for the bronze medal of the 10m Air Rifle final event on Monday that finally pushed him out of the competitive sport forever.
At the first elimination stage of eight shots of the 20 shot final, Bindra was fourth with a score of 81.2. A brilliant series of high-10s saw him go up to second after 11 shots and third after 12.
He kept maintaining the position till the 14th shot but a couple of high 9s saw him tied at fourth with the Ukrainian Serhiy Kulish after the 16th shot.
In the shoot-off that followed, Bindra managed a par 10.0 while the Ukrainian came up with a brilliant shot of 10.5 under pressure to relegate former Indian Olympic gold medallist into fourth place.
“Well, it was the Olympic Games,” he summed it up after the elimination about the high quality shooting by the winners.
Italian Niccolo Campriani won his second Olympic gold, while Serhiy went on to win the silver pushing Russian Vladimir Maslenikkov to the third.
Earlier, Bindra looked in a complete control while sailing through qualifying round in seventh position with a score of 625.7. The 33-year-old started strongly to climb up to the second spot during the first third of the 60 shots rally before losing ground in the middle, where he slipped to 12. However, he made sure with his consistent rally of big shots to finish seventh and comfortably qualify.
Calling it quits
Winning or not, Bindra was sure about his retirement plans after the Games.
He knew he was going to have last outing at the shooting centre. The only thing he was probably not sure was when he will finally make the exit from the Games Village.
“Well, fourth is good in my last competition, I’m not disappointed,” said Bindra, after finishing fourth in the 10m air rifle event. “Somebody had to be fourth, I’m fourth and I’m happy,” he added.
During the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, he declared his intentions to be a fun shooter, who will shoot on weekends.
The fun shooter became serious again after his Rio qualification. But that was all till Monday because he knew the nation of 1.3 billion people will be watching him.
However, he failed to repeat the Beijing magic. But what a proud way to bow out of the sport that has made him a legend. He will be packing his suitcase with heavy shooting gear such as trousers, jacket and rifle equipments for one last time this evening to catch a flight to Germany, which is his home away from home for many years now.
“It was a good day, it was a hard day,” Bindra described his last day at the shooting range. “I did well. I put my all, and I ended up fourth in the world, to close my Olympics career on a high. I think that’s good. It could have been better with a medal, but it was not to be. I came close, and I’m very very happy.”.
Bindra has been often described as robotic for showing no emotions while competing at high levels. His reaction, or rather the lack of it after winning gold in 2008 Beijing on August 11, confirmed that he has very few words to say. He preferred to be alone.
However, winning an Olympic gold surely needs hard work, dedication and complete focus.
Even after retirement, Bindra will surely continue to battle pain for many years to come but he will not have to take special injections in his spine to keep him ready for competitions.
He will surely be returning to his home town Chandigarh in the next few days as ‘India’s most eligible bachelor’. Not a bad ending for his long journey in sports, which began when he stepped out as an unsung shooter at the Sydney Games in 2000.