New Delhi, Aug 11: India's first ever individual Olympic gold medal win was greeted at home with disbelief and joy. Abhinav Bindra, a 25-year-old businessman, was lavished with praise after taking gold in the men's 10m Air Rifle shooting on Monday in one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history.
India, winners of eight field hockey gold medals, had never won an individual Olympic title before Bindra's feat. "This is an individual medal. It's a greater achievement. I was the captain of a team that won a gold but this is far bigger," said Vasudevan Bhaskaran, captain of the Indian hockey team which won gold at the Moscow Games in 1980. "I hope this will be an eye opener for all those who have followed only one sport - cricket," he said.
Tributes were sent by President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, while Bindra's family home in Chandigarh in northern India was thronged with well-wishers.
"Abhinav has shown the world that an Indian can also stand on the podium," said Indian track and field legend PT Usha, whose best was an Asian Games gold.
"It is a total result of his hard work and his family support," she said.
Bindra's agent, Latika Khaneja, said she hoped corporate India would now inject more sponsorship cash into sports other than cricket.
"Abhinav has the youth factor, he's presentable, good-looking. And well, a gold is a gold. There aren't many who can beat that combination," she said.
"While corporations in India are not yet making a beeline for non-cricketers, the gold medal will do the trick."
A poll conducted by one of the Games sponsors found that almost 70 percent of city-bred Indians will closely follow the action in Beijing despite a clash with India's cricket tour of Sri Lanka.