Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2020. Since then, Abhinav Bindra has had company in this elite group with Neeraj Chopra winning gold at Tokyo Olympics in August 2021.
For a country that has had gold medals in hockey over the years at the Summer Olympic Games, to this date, India’s biggest individual success at the sport’s biggest stage has just been a solitary occurrence – the first and only individual Olympic gold medal won by Abhinav Bindra.
On August 11, 2008, Abhinav Bindra shot a near-perfect 10.8 as his final shot in the men’s 10m air rifle final and clinched India’s first and only individual Olympic gold. The last time India had a spot atop the podium was when the men’s hockey team won at the 1980 Olympics.
The historic gold medal at the Beijing Olympics is very special to Indian sports fans. For one, it remains only individual medal to date. More importantly, it gave such a big impetus to shooting as a sport that today India is one of the most successful countries in the world in the discipline.
Back in 2008, Bindra was a multiple-time Commonwealth Games medallist but had missed his shot at the 2004 Athens Olympics despite reaching the final.
But in Beijing, there was little margin of error.
He was placed fourth after the qualification round with a score of 596/600 points. According to the rules then, the qualification score was added to your final score and therefore a medal required a higher degree of concentration and calculation.
In the final, he built on that with a series of solid shots, not falling below 10 in any of the rounds. His impressive series read 10.7, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5, 10.5, 10.5, 10.6, 10.0, 10.2, ending with a flawless shot, scoring 10.8 to clinch the gold medal.
And then came the moment that can match the emotional impact of any good sports film – the Indian tricolour was raised and the national anthem was played at the Olympics.
For a country that has been largely deprived of Olympic heroes, Bindra’s gold is a reminder of both the challenges of competing at the highest level and what elation a medal can bring. Every time a Summer Olympic Games approaches, Indian fans reminisce Bindra’s historic achievement and hope we get to see a similar moment soon.
For now, here’s a quick look at that final:
Back in 2008, drained after the emotional day, he didn’t fully understand the significance of his medal and the impact it made back home. But with the benefit of hindsight, he knows that Beijing 2008 was a big moment for Indian athletes.
“When you win it, you don’t realise or recognise it. But over time, you do. It is something we as a country were waiting for and it happened on that particular day. The glass ceiling had to be broken, someone had to do it and I feel fortunate that I was the one who was able to do it. Now that it has been done, we are hoping that a lot more people are able to do it,” Bindra had told Scroll.in about the day.
Here’s the shooter talking about the gold and more: