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Bindra says goodbye in bad year for seniors, youngsters shine

Perfectionist Abhinav Bindra walked into the sunset after a glorious career but, in an unfortunate coincidence, dark clouds hovered over a house in disorder after the Indian shooting team returned with only luggage to boast for following a barren Olympic campaign.

Bindra says goodbye in bad year for seniors, youngsters shine
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File photo of Abhinav Bindra

New Delhi

Abhinav Bindra was not far away from a fairy-tale ending.

India's lone individual Olympic gold medallist till date, he quit the sport he loved dearly and practised with single-minded devotion over the last two decades, after winning plenty of laurels across the world.

Bindra officially announced his retirement from shooting in September, saying, "It is time to move on and hand over the baton to the younger generation".

With the profile of the sport taking a beating of sorts post Rio, youngsters would do well take a leaf out of Bindra's book of training.

The World Championship gold-medallist missed out on a second Olympic podium finish by a whisker in his last Games after losing in a tense shoot-off, but still he was by far the best Indian shooter on view in Rio.

It was appropriate that the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), governing body for the sport in the country, commemorated the glittering career of Bindra at a gala ceremony.

While the sport made noises outside, by the standards Indian shooters have set over the years, it was quiet inside the ranges. Performing regularly gave way to winning a rare medal or two intermittently.

The debacle in Rio was the first time since 2004 that India finished without a medal at an Olympic Games, prompting the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to formulate a review committee headed by Bindra immediately after the multi-sport extravaganza to examine and identify in a cold and ruthless manner the reasons behind the failure.

Besides the shooters, the panel was equally scathing on coaches and the national federation in its damning 36-page report, and minced no words as it chastised the Rio flop show while recommending a systematic overhaul.

From Gagan Narang, Heena Sidhu to Ayonika Paul, none of the shooters were spared for the disastrous outing, with the panel talking to each shooter individually.

Among the juniors though, talented shooters have emerged with quite a few shining on the world stage regularly, indicating a bright future.

The rise of junior shooters augers well for the sport, but the seniors have left a lot to be desired with their dismal showing, especially in the mother of all sporting events, where India has brought home four medals since the Athens Games, including a historic gold by Bindra at the 2008 Beijing edition.

Vijay Kumar and Gagan Narang continued the trend at London 2012, winning a silver and a bronze each, and the shooters kept the good work going by returning with a decent haul from the Incheon Asian Games and Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

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