My greatest life lessons have come from the shooting range, says Abhinav Bindra

There is no one quite like Abhinav Bindra in our country. Not just because he has turned around from being a boy who bunked physical training classes in school to someone who loves, practices and advocates training hard – becoming India’s only individual gold medallist at the Olympic Games on the way – but also because he shares lessons from his sport to inspire everyone.

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP

His 2011 book, A Shot At History: My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold, offers a stunning look at his journey from teenaged shooter to world and Olympic Games champion, with a lot of pain and grief punctuating the route. Yet, instead of resting on his oars, Abhinav Bindra is back on his quest to becoming the first man to win a repeat 10m air rifle gold medal at the Olympics.

“I don’t run so much now as my knees are not so good. I cycle more. I do more fitness work than actual shooting. A lot is happening on the fitness front,” he says when asked if he still wears down the treadmill as he did all those years ago when he chased his Olympic dream and became India’s first individual gold medal winning athlete in the greatest celebration of sport.

“Currently, I would say I am obsessed in a good way,” he says, making no bones about the fact that he has learnt a lot from sport. “My greatest life lessons have come from the shooting range,” he tells Zevenworld.com at the end of what appears to have been a pretty long day of intense physical training in Chandigarh.

“At the moment, the focus is on setting up the physical base. It has been that way for the last few weeks. I will be shooting quite a lot, travelling from February to build up to the Olympics. I will shoot in about 10-12 competitions, leading up to the Games. It is going to be quite competitive starting next month. There is still some time to go to fine tune,” he says.

MANPREET ROMANA / AFP

“Sport is the only thing that I have done most of my life. It is a great teacher. It teaches you to live with equanimity, it teaches you to go through with ups and downs, face failures, face victories, face highs and lows which every human being will face in a lifetime. It teaches you all that to live life,” he says. He is employing those lessons in his preparation for his fifth Olympic appearance.

Here are some, in his own words

Pursuing excellence

Yes, I am chasing perfection. I certainly think I can do better. Shooting is a sport where you have to learn to be perfect on an imperfect day. That is really a big challenge. Not every day is the same and there are different challenges every day, from one moment to the other. I am chasing a perfect performance. But going into the Olympics, I just want to be the best I can and I know I can do well. I am chasing a good personal performance.

Enjoying the process

I just want to be the best that I can be. I love my sport. I love the process of shooting. I am trying to be the best I can be. Now that I am older, I face a lot more challenges now than perhaps I did say 10 years ago. Motivation is not a problem. I know I can be better in my personal journey to excellence.

Putting the best foot forward

The eventual outcome is pretty immaterial as long as you give it your best, are able to mobilise all that you have on that given day and put your best foot forward, leading up to the Olympic Games and on the day of your event. If I am able to do that, I am very happy. That is what I am chasing. The outcome is something which is a consequence of that. I can’t go into the Olympic Games saying I want to win the gold medal. Yes, the big goal is to win a gold medal but there are many steps to cross before you get to that. You have to be really living in the moment and in order to live the moment, you have to really enjoy every moment and give that moment your best and not be too concerned about the past or the future.

NARINDER NANU / AFP

Living in the moment

When you are living in the moment, you are obviously very focused. But that is easier said than done. You also have moments when you lose concentration and your mind jumps ahead or goes back. It comes down to discipline. It comes down to finding that determination to get through those critical moments where a part of your mind or body is not in an optimum state at that time. It is natural for it to happen. We are human beings and we are not built to be completely still in our mind and certainly not still in our bodies. My sport requires both those things. There are moments where that will happen but that is the time you live through those critical moments during a competition and in a way, enjoy it. It is very painful at the moment. It is really tough. You have to bear with it. You have to have the tenacity and motivation to bear with that discomfort.

Risk-taking

In any sport, there is a great element of risk. You need to find that courage from within to take that risk. Each shot is a risk in a certain ways. You have to find that belief and that courage which is very important. I think courage is a huge element when you perform on that big stage. It is extremely important that you find it to be able to take risks, make certain decisions which are needed to be taken in difficult moments.

Indeed, Abhinav Bindra remains the quintessential student, learning all the time, chasing perfection, preparing to experience another journey in self-discovery. Along the way, his pursuit of excellence has sparked a desire among countless to be the best they can be, being up on their feet to trigger the endorphins and feeling a sense of euphoria.

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