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Abhinav Bindra interview: It was time to move on, and I'm at peace post-retirement

Abhinav Bindra has always been a man in a hurry.

He participated in his first Olympics (Sydney, 2000) at 17.

He won the first of his four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games at 19.

He became the first Indian shooter to win a World Championship Gold at 23.

He became the first Indian to win an individual Olympic Gold medal at 25.

After narrowly missing out on a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Abhinav Bindra retired from the sport at 33 to give way to the ‘younger’ generation.

“It was time to move on and am very much in peace with it. I realised that whatever little talent I had was beginning to fade,” Abhinav Bindra told Firstpost, in an interview on Thursday, on the sidelines of Sports Illustrated’s Sportperson of The Year event, where he received the 'Lifetime Achievement Award'.

A Lifetime Achievement award at the age of 34.

Abhinav Bindra (centre) receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. Twitter/@abhinav_bindra

Abhinav Bindra (centre) receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. Twitter/@abhinav_bindra

The five-time Olympian is now taking an active interest in ensuring there is an overall development of sports in India.

One such initiative is the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs’ Target Olympic Podium Scheme(TOPS). It aims to identify potential medal winners for the 2020 Tokyo and 2024 Olympics.

Bindra, who is the chairman of the TOPS committee that includes athletes like PT Usha and Prakash Padukone, said, “It is still very much just starting out now. The government has been setting a team of researchers together. My involvement with TOPS is only for identifying the talent. The process is gaining steam now and in a meeting scheduled later this month, the committee will start evaluating the different athletes. That’s what has happened so far."

He has also been vocal about the need to bridge the gap between the various sports federations and the government. To facilitate one such move, he was recently appointed as the national observer for shooting.

“I am an independent voice. I am not linked to the government or the federation. I tell both parties what I feel is right,” said Bindra explaining the role of an observer.

Though Bindra is a widely recognised individual in the country, the sport that he took up is still considered by many to be niche that requires a lot of financial assistance.

However, the former Indian shooter dismissed the claim and said, “There is the national championship in December. Come and have a look and decide if it is still a niche sport.”

Putting a rest to the murmurs that are getting louder about bullets used in shooting being a major environment concern, Bindra declared that there is no alternative to bullets.

"Shooting will always be about the bullets. There is no scope for lasers in the sport of shooting."

In India, a country that revolves around a single-sport agenda, it is not easy for athletes from other sports to get the deserved recognition and required financial aid.

Amid rising criticism about the disparity in the allocation of funds to various sports through the National Sports Development Fund, the Olympic medallist felt that India has always had priority sports.

He added that the government policy dictates that different sports, requiring varying levels of assistance, should be identified.

“In an ideal world, I’d love all sports to be supported equally. But are we living in one?” reflected Bindra.

Abhinav Bindra with his gold medal at Beijing 2008. Reuters

Abhinav Bindra with his gold medal at Beijing 2008. Reuters

Coming back to the Olympics, the scrapping of three events(double trap, men's rifle prone and 50m pistol) from shooting was widely criticised even by those directly involved with the sport.

However the Olympic Gold medallist(10m Air Rifle) said, “We just had a general assembly last week in Munich, where every national federation of the world was present and the vote went 249-2 in the favour of the change.”

“Change is inevitable and there is much more acceptance now after understanding the reasons behind the change and why it was important."

Talking about change, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has been frequently criticised over its functioning and looks to be in dire need of a major makeover.

The disastrous handling of the issue between the World Cup athletes and Delhi airport’s customs officials in May became the tipping point.

Although Bindra reprimanded the association on social media then, he expressed optimism and said, “There is obvious scope for improvement. I have always pushed them to professionalise their working to make it more athlete-friendly.”

Staying true to his claims, Bindra has been vocal about the issues plaguing the sport right from his time as a player to the various hats he is now donning.

“I’d like the best team for our athletes so that they can just focus on their training and performance,” said the Olympian, who also runs training and performance centres to ensure all-round development and rehabilitation of both athletes and those not involved in the sport.

With two centres up and running in Chandigarh and Delhi, a proposed centre in Bengaluru, Bindra takes pride in the facilities available in these centres.

“The ‘Tecnobody’ that is installed in these facilities is a very advanced technology. It will be useful for athletes, on the medical side of development. It will be easier to find out orthopaedic issues and plan the rehabilitation process accordingly. The instrument has tremendous scope and potential.”

Abhinav Bindra, the flagbearer for the Indian contingent at the Rio Olympics. AP

Abhinav Bindra, the flagbearer for the Indian contingent at the Rio Olympics. AP

With news spreading that a Bindra biopic is on the cards, there could be no person more uninterested than the 2016 Rio Olympics flagbearer for India.

“I heard about it. I wrote my book (A shot at history) years ago. I read that something is happening. But, how would I be interested to see my life story on screen. I have lived that life.”

“But, maybe, just maybe, it might be interesting.”

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 20:02 PM

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