India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra has high hopes from the shooting contingent at the Tokyo Games later this year.
The number of Olympic quotas stands at a record 15 after a highly successful 2019 that saw Indian shooters top all the rifle-pistol World Cups and the season-ending World Cup Finals. This was after they drew a blank at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“The depth of talent in our country and the support has increased tremendously.” Bindra told the Olympic Channel.
“A lot of the athletes are going to be 16, 17-year-olds when they make their Olympic debut and they have a realistic shot at winning medals at the Games, which says something.”
At the forefront of the incredible showing was an extremely talented youth brigade, something the Olympic champion took note of. “At such a young age, to reach an elite level means that they are really, really talented,” Bindra said.
He added: “They have been winning top competitions across the world and each one of the has what it takes [to win a medal in the Olympics]. So I have my fingers crossed. I do hope they will come back with some gold medals and join me because I am tired of being the only one.”
Bindra hosted two refugee shooters at his foundation in Bengaluru last month. The 36-year-old is associated with a project started by his friend and three-time Italian Olympic champion Niccolo Campriani.
Through the initiative, the duo aim to train the refugee shooters in air rifle and help them participate with the Refugee Olympic team, which made its debut at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Campriani’s two hopefuls – Khaoula and Mahdi – made the trip to Bengaluru to train at his foundation. Bindra said he is trying to be a facilitator.
“[I am] Just trying to support them and trying to be a good facilitator or an enabler of sorts to make sure that they have the best possible opportunity to push themselves to try and compete at Tokyo,” he said.
“The project is something which is absolutely unique and it transcends sport. That is so in line to what the Olympics are all about. Of course, the Olympics are about winning and it’s about pushing yourself to extreme limits of self-performance. But I think the wider meaning is about unity and it’s about competing in a peaceful way and using sport to bering the world together.”
The Beijing Games gold-medallist had some encouraging words for the two aspiring shooters. “Mahdi and Khaoula have been making great progress. I see more understanding of the sport...they are understanding the various elements of technique in a more effective manner.
“And they both seem very determined. I think more than anything, more than the performance aspect, I have seen a big change in them as human beings. The first time I saw them they were very quiet and very, very reserved. And I see a greater degree of confidence every time I meet them,” Bindra said.
Former world champion Campriani had also won the silver in air rifle in the London Olympics, apart from his three gold, and Bindra is happy to assist him.
About Mahdi and Khaoula, Bindra further said, “Sport is helping them define their personalities in a little way and helping them become better human beings, helping them gain more self-confidence. And I think that is a great victory in itself.”