Asian Games: Abhinav Bindra's visa woes affect his preparations
Incheon: Abhinav Bindra shot his way to Olympic success, but he was not able to cut Indian red tape so that he could be ready for the Asian Games. India's only individual Olympic champion says he has not been able to get vital rest and practice time before he goes into battle in the 10 metre air rifle event.
Games organisers were unable to send accreditation cards for Bindra and other members of the Indian shooting squad because the national federation had not sent their entries on time. That ruined Bindra's plans to fly in to Incheon directly from the world championships in Granada, Spain to prepare for what will be his final Asian Games appearance. Instead, Bindra was forced to go back to India for a day to secure a Korean visa, arriving in Incheon on Wednesday evening, two days after his preferred date.
Bindra, who became a national icon after he won the 10m Air Rifle gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was in for another rude shock when he reached Incheon. There was no Indian official to receive him at the airport to hand over his accreditation card or complete customs formalities for the release of his equipment. It took more than four hours for Bindra to reach the athletes village where he was finally accommodated after local officials contacted the Indian delegation.
"It would have been nice to come in early but what can I do?," Bindra, 31, told AFP. "But you know what, I have got used to these things. Nothing surprises me anymore. The best I can do is concentrate on my event and give my best." Bindra will be seen in action at the Ongnyeon International Range on Monday.
India's shooters are hoping to extend their success at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where they won 17 medals, including four golds. But the presence of powerhouses China and South Korea makes the competition tougher in Incheon. Four years ago, they won just one shooting title through double-trap marksman Ronjan Sodhi.
Bindra is not the only Indian competitor to suffer from the seeming apathy of Indian officials. Late clearance of the 516 athletes and the sports ministry's provision that accommodation and allowances will be provided for only five days before their competition starts has cut into practice times. Practice time slots have been wasted since many competitors are yet to arrive in Incheon.
Indian boxers missed their training sessions on Wednesday since they arrived only on Thursday afternoon. "At least eight to 10 disciplines have suffered due to the new government order," the contingent's chef-de-mission Bhupinder Singh Bajwa was quoted as telling the Hindustan Times. At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, India participated in 35 sports and won 65 medals, including 14 golds. They are competing in 28 events in Incheon.