In his trailblazing career, Abhinav Bindra was an outlier. He did things his way — from living in Germany for a few months during the formative years of his career in order to get better competition to recreating shooting ranges at his home. Perhaps fittingly, it was him who ended India's search for an individual gold medal at the Olympics 10 years ago, a feat which no one has been able to replicate in a decade!
On Thursday, the retired shooter was in Mumbai to talk at The Times of India Global Sports Show 2018, after which he spoke to the media on a host of diverse issues: from his obsession after retirement to India's young crop of shooters to new ISSF President Vladimir Lisin's move to pour $10 million from his own pocket to create a development fund for shooting.
Here are excerpts from an interaction with select media:
For so many years of your life, you were obsessed with perfection and with the sport of shooting. What are you obsessed with now since retirement?
I'll never be able to find that sort of an obsession or single-minded focus on something like I had (for shooting) for 22 years of my life. I'm at peace with that. I don't need to be obsessed all my life with something. I enjoy what I am doing now. I'm involved in various aspects. I have a business to run. I run a foundation. I'm helping athletes. I am in the IOC Athletes Commission and that takes a lot of my time. So I have a wide spectrum of things that I am working. That keeps me very busy.
You spent a lot of the formative months of your career training in Germany, living alone or with your mother just testing your wits against some of the best shooters in the world. Since you, not many shooters have taken the same route…
Things are changing. We need to make practising within our country the Plan A for athletes. The ecosystem is slowly developing, the knowledge base across a wide spectrum of things concerning sports performance is being available to athletes. That's a positive sign. Besides, it's very difficult to change base and move to another country.
On the emergence of young shooters in India and how their inexperience can be an advantage…
The young shooters are doing so well, they're winning everything there is! Shooting is an interesting sport, you can have inexperienced people winning gold medals at the Olympic stage and on the other hand, highly experienced people can also win. So it's a very open field. I won't say that their inexperience is of any disadvantage to them. In fact, to my mind it can be an advantage. You're just focused on your sport. You can cut out distractions. You just got out there and don't know what to expect. So you focus on what you are supposed to do and it can help at times.
What India needs to do next in terms of developing shooting infrastructure…
In shooting, we are pretty developed. We have many medals at the World Championships. We just need to keep our heads focused and continue that process. We seem to be quite fortunate because we have a string of young shooting athletes coming through day in and day out. I think that's a very positive sign for the long-term development of shooting.
The young shooters that India has at the moment, they seem not to have any stage fright. Do you think that has changed from what it was back in your time?
The mindset is different. The young athletes of today are mentally much more aspirational and they have much more exposure and I think they want to go out and win. In my times, I had a defensive attitude, my generation had kind of a defensive attitude. That has changed significantly now.
Do you think the trouble for young shooters is living up to the pressure in the tournaments following the ones where medals are won?
Dealing with success is a huge challenge. Dealing with success is probably more difficult than dealing with failure.
At Rio Olympics, India's shooting contingent returned without a medal. But since then, India's young shooters have given results in World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. What do you think about the state of the sport in India?
For those in the media, it would be interesting to take stock of things by January 2019. By then we will know how many athletes have actually won quotas. By January, you would have a kind of idea of what our chances would be in Tokyo and would help you have an informed opinion of where we are.
Vladimir Lisin just took over as the ISSF president. His manifesto had some good promises like increased participation of women and more transparency. But he has now committed to putting $10 million of his money into a development fund. Do you see this as alarming?
He's the richest man in Russia, he has a passion for the sport and he wants to develop it. It's his money, he can do whatever he wants to do with it. If he puts the funds into the development of sport in federations like those in Africa or other pockets in the world where shooting is not developed, then great. Sport requires funding, and shooting is a sport which has still not managed to get funding outside of what it receives from the IOC — every four years, it receives $17 million. Those funds are used mainly for operations like hosting tournaments or administrative purposes. There hasn't been any money which is coming through sponsorship. He's put in his own money…Alarming in what way?
The president of an international sports federation essentially bankrolling the federation is alarming, right?
I get your point. It's his money, it's his organisation. Hopefully, it will help develop the sport. If we are able to reach the end goal, I think it'll be somewhat positive.
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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2018 10:25 AM