Bindra had been fourth after qualifying but had a brilliant final round and the Indian, the epitome of tranquillity, hit a near perfect 10.8 on his last shot to pull in front of Henri Hakkinen of Finland, who fell to bronze with a poor final shot.
That late stumble by the Finn allowed China’s Zhu Qinan, the defending Olympic champion and heavy favourite, to salvage a bitter day with silver. Zhu sobbed uncontrollably on the podium and again at a news conference.
“I can’t describe how happy I am,” the ever-calm Bindra told journalists. “It’s the thrill of my life. That’s about it. It’s hard to describe. I just went for it. I knew I was lying in fourth. Thankfully it went my way and I just went for it.” ( Watch )
Zhu suffered a lapse in concentration in the qualification earlier when he had to rush his final shots to make the time limit, dropping to second behind Hakkinen ahead of the final.
“I was under tremendous pressure and at times I felt really agitated,” Zhu said just before stepping on the podium and breaking down in tears. “But I tried my best.”
Moments later at the news conference Zhu was crying harder. “I’ve been through a lot of hardship and shed a lot of tears in the last four years, there have been successes and failures,” he said. “After 2004 my only aim has not changed.
I had so very much wanted to be a champion at the Beijing Olympics.”
He added: “In the last two rounds I made several mistakes because I had used up all my physical and mental energy.”
Bindra, who faced criticism for failing to deliver on the great promise he showed as a child, said he was not thinking about making history in India with a first individual gold medal.
In fact, he said, he was “not thinking about anything”. “I was just trying to concentrate on shooting,” he said.
“I wasn’t thinking of making history. I was two points behind the leaders. I was just trying to shoot good shots. I wanted to shoot well and shoot aggressively. And that’s what I did.”
His 10.8 of a possible 10.9 on his final shot sparked loud celebrations from group of fans from India.
Hakkinen, who was even with Bindra before his mere 9.7 on his last shot, said that crucial shot felt like the nine before it.
“It just wasn’t my turn,” he said. “It shows that shooting is a sport from the first to the final shot. Every one counts.”
Randhir Singh, Indian Olympic Association secretary-general and former shooter who was present at the range, was stricken by nerves as the competition reached its climax.
“I haven’t prayed so much in my life. With the second last shot they tied together and then he (Bindra) shot a 10.8. It couldn’t have got better,” he told Indian television.
Bindra won the 2006 world championships and finished seventh in Athens four years ago. Congratulate Abhinav Bindra.
Bindra wins first individual gold for India
Profile: Abhinav Bindra
Age: 25 (Date of birth: September 28, 1982)
Place of birth : Dehradun, India
Winner: 10m air rifle
Gold medallist, 2006 World Championships, 10m Air Rifle
Fourth place, 2005 Asian Championships, 10m Air Rifle
Previous Olympic result:
Seventh place, 2004 Olympics, 10m Air Rifle
Bindra began the sport at the age of 15 because he liked the idea of fame. He has been following a rigorous training session, which include seven hours of shooting and two hours of stretching and jogging every day.
Abhinav did break the Olympic record in Athens but that was not enough to win a medal as his peers did even better.
India’s other Olympic medals were a bronze from freestyle wrestler Kha-Shaba Jadav in Helsinki in 1952 and a bronze by tennis player Leander Paes in 1996.
Weightlifter Karnam Malleswari became India’s first female Olympic medallist with bronze in the 69kg category in 2000 Sydney Olympics and shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won silver in the double trap event four years ago in Athens.
Free life time rail travel for Abhinav Bindra
NEW DELHI: Shooter Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal winning performance in the Beijing Olympics has ensured him free rail travel by air-conditioned first class for the rest of his life.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on Monday announced a free lifetime train travel pass for him which is valid for first class AC travel by all the trains including Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains.
Lauding Bindra’s achievement, that makes him the first ever individual Olympic gold medallist for India, Prasad said that his remarkable achievement should inspire other Indian athletes to perform excellently in the remaining part of Beijing Olympics.
BCCI doles out Rs 25 lakh for Olympic champ Bindra
NEW DELHI: It is raining incentives for India’s first-ever individual Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra with the BCCI announcing a Rs 25 lakh reward for the shooter for his feat in the ongoing Beijing Games.
“The BCCI will give Abhinav Rs 25 lakh. He was already on our team of athletes whom we were supporting,” BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said.
Bindra created history in the Chinese capital by claiming the gold medal in 10m air rifle event on Monday to give India its first individual gold medal
Maharashtra CM announces Rs 10 lakh cash prize for Bindra
MUMBAI: Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Monday announced a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh to Abhinav Bindra, who won India’s first ever individual Olympic gold medal.
Bindra became India’s first ever individual gold medalist in the Olympics after winning the 10m air rifle event at Beijing on Monday.