Bindra, with an awesome 10.8-point

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Beijing, Aug 11: Abhinav Bindra, with an awesome 10.8-point last shot, created history as he became the first ever Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal here today.

In the heart stopping final, Abhinav moved into the third place on the first shot of the final (10.7) and into the second position after the third shot (10.4).

His 10.6 on the seventh shot moved him into the first place for good and he never lost the lead after that and then struck a purple patch in the last series hitting a phenomenal 10.8 leaving the Chinese challenger and defending champion Qinan Zhu devastated.

Zhu shot after Abhinav but his last 10.5 shattered his hopes of retaining the title in his home country and when the qualifying round leader Henri Hakkinen came last to shoot and fired a dismal 9.7, it was a celebration time for India The 25-year-old Chandigarh based World champion in 10m Air Rifle, Abhinav achieved what no other individual Indian has achieved so far in the Olympics as the National Anthem-Jan Gana Man- was played in the Games after a gap of 28 years.

The last time Indian flag went up in the Games was in Moscow in 1980 when men's hockey team won the gold and this morning Abhinav changed the face of Indian Olympic sports for ever.

The champion received the Gold from Princess Nora of Liechtenstein.

He had made the final in Athens but could not make it to the podium despite shooting his best among the medal winners.

''There is never enough preparation and training. There will always be something that you can do more.

''But I am starting to back myself and my beliefs, and doubt my doubts,'' Abhinav had said and his word proved to be prophetic today.

The Indian who came into the final finishing fourth in the qualifying round with 596, shot 104.5 in the final to upset the fancied shooters.

''I sincerely hope that my winning the Gold will change the face of the Olympic sport in India where it is not treated as a priority sport,'' Abhinav told mediapersons after his win.

Among the eight finalists, the Indian was the only shooter to have shot all his ten shots in the range of 10m and over, while remaining seven had one or more nine pointers.

Abhinav's score in the final read: 10.7, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.5, 10.5, 10.6, 10.0, 10.2 and then that Golden 10.8.

The Indian, in the process lifted the gloom from the Indian camp which was reeling under the impact of the unexpected elimination of the trap shooters Manavjit Sandhu and Mansher Singh.

From being the youngest shooter in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Abhinav has since traversed a long way.

''It is an opportunity to do well. I will try and perform to the best that I can on the world's biggest stage,'' Abhinav said before the start.

He missed the last Asian Games in Doha to improve his back, but after that he has worked really very hard for this competition. ''I have prepared as best as I could in the last two years. It has not been easy after my back problem. But now I feel fit and confident.'' Before coming here, Abhinav trained in Germany with his Swiss coach Gaby Buehlmann along with other Indian shooters.

In the qualifying round Abhinav started off well with a perfect 100, while Gagan shot nine tens and one seven pointer to open his account with 97.
Gagan then came up with some startling display as he had hat-trick of perfect series of 100, 100, 100, while Abhinav's second series had ten nine pointers and one pointer (99), third was again 100 but fourth included nine ten pointers and an eight pointer (98). So after 400, both the Indians had an identical score of 397.

Abhinav scored 100 in his fifth series but in the sixth and last series he scored nine ten pointers but of his last shot he scored nine points to finish the round with 596 and that was enough for him to make it to the finals for the second successive time in the Olympics.

Gagan, however, did not proved to be that fortunate. The Hyderabadi shooter lost his concentration a bit in his fifth series in which he had a score of 98 and he scored perfect 100 to end the round with 595 along with four others.

Finland's Henri Hakkinen topped the round with 598 points (100, 100, 99, 100, 100, 99) followed by China's Qinan Zhu 597 (100, 100, 100, 100, 99, 98), Romania's Alin George Moldoveanu 596 (99, 99, 99, 100, 100, 99) and Abhinav Bindra 596 (100, 99, 100, 98, 100, 99).

As only eight shooters make it to the final, there was tie between the five shooters for last four places.

And on the count back, (when more than one shooters are tied, the winner is decided on the count back, meaning his previous round is counted) all the next four - Russian Serguei 595 (100, 99, 98, 98, 100, 100), Hungary's Peter Sidi 595( 98, 99, 100, 99, 99, 100), Russia's Konstantin Prikhodtchenko 595 (99, 99, 100, 98, 99, 100) and Serbia's Steven Pletikosic 595 (100, 98, 100, 98, 99, 100) who completed the final line up had better count back (5th round) than Gagan, who had shot 98 in his fifth round.

Ironically, Gagan Narang, regarded as the coolest shooter in the Indian contingent, lost his focus at the crucial juncture.

The stocky Hyderabadi shooter had beaten most of the World's best shooters in his event in competitions and he looked like winning here too but then luck played a cruel joke with him.

Gagan the Commonwealth Games quadruple gold medallist's had erased World record holder Thomas Farnik's record of 703.1 with awesome score of 704.3 during a training session in Germany.

UNI

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