Incheon: Abhinav Bindra is one of those handful of sportsmen, particularly outside of cricket, whose every word, every movement and every success and failure is minutely scrutinised. Little wonder then as Bindra, who turns 32 in five days time, turned up for what he had 'tweeted' was his last competition as a 'professional', there was much debate on what he actually meant.
Abhinav Bindra acknowledges the crowd after his bronze-medal winning performance in the 10m air rifle competition yesterday. Pics/PTI
More than what was clearly going to be his last Asian Games appearance – he also competed at the 2002 and 2010 Games – everybody was curious to know what he meant by tweeting that this would his last Games as a professional, and that he would be a hobby shooter thereafter, who would still try to qualify for Rio Olympics in 2016.
Two months ago, he had tweeted that Glasgow would be his last Commonwealth Game, and he went ahead and shot a gold for a dream finish. Alas, nothing of that sort happened in Incheon, though he did come back with two bronze medals – one each in individual and team events.
First, Bindra (625.4) helped the team comprising Ravi Kumar (618.9) and Sanjeev Rajput (618.7), to finish third behind China (1886.4) and Korea (1867.6) to win the bronze with a total of 1863. His total gave him the fifth place in qualification to get into the final and have a shy at the medals. For a brief period he even led, but in the end finished with a bronze, which was still his first individual medal at three Asian Games.
Bindra led the field after 12 shots before slipping to the fifth place and was saved from being ousted after a poor performance by Pourya Norouziyan of Iran and his own scores of 10.5, 10.6 and 10.7.
China's Haoran Yang and Yifei Cao finished one and two as Bindra with 187.1 points exited as the bronze medallist. The 18-year-old newcomer Haoran won gold with 209.6 points and Yifei bagged silver with 208.9.
Abhinav Bindra (extreme left), Ravi Kumar and Sanjeev Rajput (right) with their bronze medals during the presentation ceremony yesterday
This was the fifth medal for India from shooting at these Games. They comprise one gold and four bronze, with men's pistol shooter Jitu Rai's title win being the sole gold.
No sooner did Bindra come out for an interaction with the media after the final, he was asked about his tweet, to which he smiled and replied, "The tweet was very easy to understand. I don't know what the confusion is. For 20 years I have been a professional shooter, lived a life where I did nothing but shoot day in and day out, trained my heart out. From tomorrow onwards, I will be a hobby shooter, I will train twice a week. That's it."
He added, "I will still go to the domestic trials and see if I can make the team. I will compete at the World Cup only if I am at a certain level. I don't want to go to the World Cup shooting 620. If I am able to shoot at the level I am shooting at the moment, I will make an attempt. Otherwise I would give a fair chance to the next person. I don't know how I well I will do because I have never been a hobby shooter before. I have always been a shooter who has given his best. "
Bindra, who has always been known to keep his media interactions short, smiled and added, "No, I just wanted to bring it out into the public. You people complain that I don't talk, here I am giving an information, now there is a problem."
Shifting to yesterday's final, he said, "I think I shot very well in the final. In fact, I shot well in the competition (qualification) as well. I worked very hard for this. In shooting there is nothing within the reach. It has to happen. Shooting is a sport where nothing is won till the end. And I am absolutely delighted with what I did."
When asked about the low number, 9.6 he shot and fell down on the leaderboard, he replied, "That's how it happens in the sport."
He said he was fine but tired, and added, "I want to go eat something, want to go home."
And yes, he has a birthday to celebrate. The year has produced a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games bronze. Now it is time to sit back and relax – well at least for five days a week. And maybe think about Rio. Now and then.
The number of medals Indian shooters have won so far at the Asian Games this time