Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Gold... finally

Like every other Indian, I am proud of what Abinav Bindra achieved in Beijing yesterday. Winning an individual gold medal in the Olympics is the ultimate sporting achievement – you just cannot get better than that. Abhinav Bindra is the best in the world at the discipline he has chosen.

For as long as I can remember, the Indian contingent went to the Olympics with a team full of medal hopefuls, and returned with kitbags full of excuses. “Something went wrong with my rifle”, “the other guy took me by surprise”, “the noise distracted me”, “I could not cope with the humidity” – after a few Olympics, I started tuning it all out.
There was a rare Anju Bobby George who produced her personal best – I cheered her, even if her best was not good enough. But the athletes who turned in sub-par performances, I could never understand. These were the Olympics, you were supposed to die for them – why then could our athletes not even do as well as they themselves had in the past?
We as a nation just don’t have it in us to win, I concluded a long time back. Our athletes may be physically able to be the best in the world, but they did not have that extra something that marked a champion from an also ran.

Abhinav Bindra has made me rethink that cynical attitude of mine. When he could have been basking in the media attention and soaking in all that adulation, he chose to focus on the athletes who did not win. “All of us compete to win”, he said. “Just that we had not managed an individual gold so far.” Just in case you missed his point, he reiterated, “It is a great honour that I have won an Olympic gold. But it should not take away from the fact that all of us try equally hard. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t.”
Bindra knows what he is talking about – he had missed a medal at Athens, and I must have mentally filed away his excuse of a faulty floor with all the other excuses that all the other athletes have made through the years. With a gold medal around his neck, Bindra can afford to question our attitude towards the excuses athletes make.

Nobody wants not to win. If you miss your chance at the Olympics, you may never get another one. There is just too much at stake for you to not give your best. These are the Olympics – you do die for them. Problem is that the other guy is also willing to die for them.
The next time I hear an excuse from an athlete, I will not pass a value judgment on the athlete as I did till I read what Abhinav Bindra had to say. I will accept the excuse for the statement that it is, and hope that the person is able to come back after four years for another stab at the medal.

Thank you, Abhinav Bindra for bringing home the gold. And thank you for doing your bit to make us more supportive of our sporting heros when they fail to deliver what we feel they should.

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