If Singh is King, Abhinav Singh Bindra unquestionably is.
In becoming the first Indian ever to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics in the 10 metre air rifle event, the soft-spoken shooter’s feat has resulted in a torrent of hurrahs and hyperbole. Chests are swelling up at the sound of the National Anthem at the victory podium; awards and accolades are pouring in from State governments, corporates and organisations; and sports correspondents are finally having something to write home about after communicating gloom and doom, in Olympics after Olympics.
But the most large-hearted reaction has come from Kapil Dev. The all-rounder who captained India to its maiden and only World Cup triumph in cricket 25 years ago has declared that Bindra’s feat is the “biggest sporting achievement the country has witnessed”; a “far bigger achievement” than the 1983 victory. And the sports minister M.S. Gill has said Bindra’s win is bigger than the Twenty20 triumph under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni last year.
Question: Is an Olympic individual gold, competing against dozens of countries, bigger than a cricket team trophy, won among a dozen or so countries? Will Bindra’s medal have the same impact on athletics and other track and field sports, as the Kapil’s trophy did on cricket? Will his victory really spur the government, the sports bodies and corporates, not to speak of parents, to show some interest in non-cricket sports? Did Rajyavardhan Rathore‘s silver in the last Olympics spark a shooting boom? Or are we just over-reacting?
Photograph: Abhinav Bindra hugs his Swiss coach Gaby Buehlmann after he won the 10M air rifle gold (courtesy K.N. Shanth Kumar/ Deccan Herald)