Abhinav Bindra: Come Tokyo I will not be the only individual Olympic champion from India

Bindra, who struck gold at the Beijing Games, has his hopes pinned on shooting and badminton

By Samrat Chakraborty

Abhinav Bindra remains India's only gold medal winner in an individual event, courtesy of his famous victory in the 10m air rifle in Beijing in 2008.

But the former shooter hopes that come Tokyo Olympics he will have company at the summit.

"I do hope and feel that come Tokyo or the Games after that, I will definitely not be the only individual Olympic champion and we will have others coming to the fore," he stated during Global Sports Week.

However, he believes that India must undergo a massive change in the sports culture to produce more Olympic medallists from the country.

"We are a population of 1.3 billion but I think we must ask ourselves the question - 'How many of that 1.3 billion actually play sport?' And when you actually look into the numbers of people taking part in sport it will be much less. Historically I think sport has not been imbibed in our country.

"When I was young and in my generation for sure, and generations before mine, the academic pursuits of young people took complete precedence and sport was almost looked down upon and not encouraged. And I think that has had a big impact on us not getting global success at Olympic level," he explained.

Abhinav Bindra 

But Bindra feels that the situation is gradually getting brighter and with government support for athletes, more people will be encouraged to take up a sport.

" A lot is changing now, predominantly because we are a very young population - 50 per cent of our population is below the age of 20 - and sport is capturing the imagination of the youth and it’s getting much more important and being given a priority.

"The Government has to assist in sport much more seriously because our population is more involved in it.

"To conclude I think the lack of a sports culture in our history has had a great impact on our sporting performance."

Bindra decided to retire after finishing fourth at the Rio Olympics. He admits that winning gold in Beijing will remain an unmatched experience:

"Beijing 2008 was one of the highlights of my life, one of the biggest moments which I will always cherish. I think it is also a case of coming to the understanding and the acceptance that probably nothing will match that sort of adrenaline ever again. And I’m all right with that, and I’m at peace with that, so that is an important learning for me."

Apart from shooting, he feels that badminton is another sport where India can excel in the Olympics and in the future.

"Of course shooting remains a sport where I would put my money on if I had to. We have had tremendous success in the recent past, with a lot of young people taking part in the sport and having global success. And badminton is another one which has got a lot of people interested in that sport."