To read Abhinav Bindra’s autobiography, leading up to his Gold Medal in Air Rifle shooting at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, is a lesson in the obsession and passion needed to win a medal at the Olympics. There are so many inspirations that one can take from Bindra’s story, it is beyond belief. In the book, he has opened his heart out, taking us inside his feelings, his beliefs, his victories and his tribulations as he fought his way to Gold.
Written in the first person, the book recounts his early days of shooting with his first coach, at the backyard. He pays tribute to his parents right at the beginning and does not touch much upon them later on in the story, but their presence and support all the way is understated and understood. Bindra talks of his ability to shoot all day long, from 9:00 a.m. till 9:00 p.m. This madness, this junoon, at shooting eventually lead him to be India’s first Individual gold medalist at the Olympics. He stays humble throughput, paying all the respect deserved to his coaches along the way to the medal.
As a teenager, leading into his early 20s, he was undoubtedly helped by his parents’ ability to fund his coaching trips to Europe, to the United States and later on, to South Africa even. This topic is not shied away from either – Abhinav Bindra shows amazing alacrity of thought and admits that he was helped by all of this. It is a different matter that not every person with a similar passion would be as favorably placed as he was. The thought that it was easy for him because of the monetary support is laughable. Bindra stopped at absolutely nothing in his quest for Gold at the Olympics. If he thought trying something outlandish would give him a better chance, he would try it. No stopping him. Humbling, inspiring and truly, outstanding. He went through physical conditioning with a special coach from the US, mental conditioning, mapping his brain’s electrical activity to different situations that he may face while shooting in a final, went trekking and even underwent liposuction to remove “love handles”!
For me, the Olympics has always been cruel to the athlete. He or she trains for 4 years. 4 years for a race that could last only a few seconds. 10 seconds, if it is a 100m dash. Ask Usain Bolt. 4 years for a chance to throw the javelin. Imagine if you spent 4 years training for an event and then, wake up on that day with a fever or catch a cold, that impacts your performance. Therefore, the athlete trains through all of that. Through fever, cold and pain. Bindra even recreated the Beijing shooting center and practiced. All of this does not even guarantee a medal. After all, there are so many others doing almost the same things to win a medal themselves! So, you train. Train harder, go further and faster. As Bindra says in his book, the athlete digs deep. As deep as he can go. Bindra climbed up a totem pole and stood on a square plate at the top, the size of a pizza. What did that have to do with shooting? Fighting the fear and digging to the depths possible. What a man!
If you are a sports fan, you must read this book. If you are an Indian wondering why India fares poorly in Olympics, you must read this book. If you need inspiration, you must read this book. I give it 5 stars, not just for the writing, but also to honor the man. he made a gold starved country proud in 2008. Not by chance, not by luck; but by sheer determination and hard work. I must leave with a quote that stayed with me after the book. A quote at the Olympians training center at Colorado:
It is not once in four years. It is every day.US Olympic training center, Colorado Springs