Chandigarh, Aug 26 : Abhinav Bindra, the ace shooter from Punjab, brought laurels to the country by winning the first ever individual gold medal for India at the Beijing Olympics Games in the men's 10 metres air rifle event.
Bindra's family was behind him in fueling his dream of an Olympic medal.
The 25-year-old businessman from Chandigarh defeated the Athens Games champion Zhu Qinan of China and Henri Hakkinen of Finland in the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history.
Trailing by two points after the qualification round, Bindra trumped his rivals in the 10 shot final as he went into the last shot level with Hakkinen on 689.7 points. And, this last shot earned this youngster the ecstasy of entering the history books of India and world sports.
"It's very hard to say how I am feeling and the truth is I am numb at the moment," said Bindra after winning the gold medal.
"I am very proud at this moment not only for myself but also for the country," said Bindra, and added, "Ten meter air rifle is a very slippery sport with fierce competition and I am really happy that I was able to perform on the given day."
India's latest "sporting hero" started his Olympic journey at the age of 18 and was the youngest in the contingent for the Sydney Olympics.
"This being my third Olympics experience was also a big factor since I knew what an Olympic competition was all about," said Bindra.
In Athens 2004, Bindra strolled into the final with a score of 597 out of 600 and was third. He was shooting like a dream and looked cool as a cucumber.
Bindra's Beijing gold has become an inspiration for the countrymen.
While talking about his achievement Bindra said, "I would like to dedicate my gold medal to bring hope and determination in all my fellow athletes who should now believe that there is a possibility and strive to bring many more laurels for our country."
Bindra would like his achievement to bring a positive change in the management and mindset of the Indian sports.
No doubt Bindra was a child prodigy, but his father spared no effort to ensure the best of everything from equipment to coaches to training stints and tournaments for exposure. The government too kept faith in him with a number of grants.
He had every facility at his beck and call. His family in Punjab has spent millions of rupees to fuel his dream of an Olympic medal.
But all was not so rosy as it may seem. Bindra had a back pain, which almost cost him the medal. It was a situation where he had to ask himself whether he wanted to shoot at all with so much pain. But nothing would deter him.
Amit Bhattacharjee, Abhinav's trainer said, "It is difficult to find a person who has come up with his back injury in such a good form and brought such a big laurel to the country."
"He had Lumborum problem, which can force anybody sitting or standing here, to take rest for at least six months," Bhattacharjee said, and added, "After taking a break for six months this guy has really come up very well and firstly won world championship and today he has brought gold for the nation with a bang."
Abhinav has earned invaluable glory for his country, bigger than any other reward.
The state government and the ministry of sports have heaped cash awards poured on him. For this priceless talent, money was just an incentive to motivate the younger generation. y Sunil Sharma