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    Posted on 31 October 2011

    Straight from Bindra’s barrel: Shoot to kill

    Abhinav Bindra hated sports growing up. But he loved his father’s guns, and hired a shooting coach later and completed a degree in mental sports finally winning India’s first-ever individual gold in Olympics. His recently released biography A Shot at History: My Obsessive Journey to the Olympic Gold, co-written by journalist Rohit Brijnath, details his journey towards the glory. Bindra, 29, speaks to Yamini Deenadayalan about how he practices self-hypnosis for three hours everyday and teaches himself to be the competitive person he is not naturally.

    Abhinav Bindra with President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhawan after he won the gold medal in the 10-metre air rifle event in 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

    Photo courtesy: Taken from the book A Shot at History: My Obsessive Journey to the Olympic Gold

    You can’t keep tricking your mind with the same tricks. It suddenly gets a streak of intelligence which says, ‘Bullshit.’ -- Abhinav Bindra

    You are still in your twenties. Why an autobiography so early?
    One of the main motives was to inspire more people. I spoke to a lot of athletes and they always asked me how I did it. Of course, everyone has to charter their own course. I hope to inspire them to do well.

    Guns, shooting…. What triggered the interest?
    I was fascinated. When I was growing up on a farm house, my dad had a few guns. Later, I joined a boarding school--The Doon School in Dehradun—but hated it. I am a mama’s boy; I guess that explains it. I also hated any kind of physical activity.

    My dad tried his best to make me adapt to the boarding school and always emphasised that sport was a wonderful way of having fun. He would write me a letter every week motivating me to play sports. After moving to Chandigarh, I joined a day school and was looking for some activity after my classes. A family friend introduced me to a coach and that’s how I started.

    Was it the result of an indirect pressure from your dad?
    No, I didn’t have any such pressure. Though my parents always encouraged me, I did take my time. I didn’t do any sport for three-four years, and then I thought “Haan kar lete hain”. Shooting is a very addictive sport. You are in control of your performance and that makes you want to do it again and again. You hit the bull’s eye once and then you feel you can do it again. When I started, I wanted to win a district tournament and then I thought I would feel like a king. Step by step, I kept improving. The goals kept getting bigger and it was a slow process.

    You studied sports mental management in Munich and at the Lanny School of Mental Management in the US. What did you learn?
    It is to better your own performance and skill. The point is to understand how the mind works and improve on it. Everything is driven by the mind. You can have the fittest body and be talented, but the mind triggers all movements and actions. You have to have the ability to perform when the stress is high in a competitive scenario. In sports, the stress levels can be different--but then everybody faces it. I wasn’t competitive at all. I didn’t like sport; I never had a competitive streak in me.

    You have written about developing temporary negative feelings towards your opponent to be competitive. How does that work?
    Anything to motivate you, get you aroused and overcome any fears is great. It doesn’t work any more. It worked for a while. I don’t actively do that anymore. I would use that as a motor to help me earlier. It might not work for someone who is not competitive and loves everybody. Everything has a life span isn't it? Now, I think it is important to stay in the present. It comes with discipline. The point is to trick your mind. You can’t keep tricking your mind with the same tricks. It suddenly gets a streak of intelligence which says, ‘Bullshit.’

    What are the most outlandish things you have done as part of your training?
    I had lipodissolve procedure to break down a certain amount of fat in my body. I meditated in ‘samadhi (flotation) tanks’. I joined a commando course before the Beijing Olympics. I put rubber from Ferrari tyres on my shoes. If anything could give me a 10th of a point of advantage, I would do it.

    Do you think the media has something against you because you are privileged?
    Yes, I’ve had a lot of opportunities, but you can’t buy a gold medal. You can’t take away the will. Money can give you opportunities. Tonnes of other things give you the result. It doesn’t bother me. It is true that I am privileged, but one has to understand that it is not the only thing that brings success. China spends $2.5 million on every gold medal they win. Of course, sporting events are so technology-driven and competitive. You need the training and exposure. You need the backing and nurturing before success may or may not come. There is no guarantee for success in sports isn't it?

    How are you dealing with the 2012 Olympics pressure?
    There’s no magic. You have to overcome the demons produced by your mind—the fear of failure-- through courage, determination and the desperation to do it. When there is a real desperation, you can overcome everything. Some people are not naturally competitive. In sports, you have to have that killer instinct. You have to create situations that mobilise your inner will and desire. Every person has that killer instinct but some people have to learn to find it.

    What is your training schedule nowadays?
    At the moment, I am doing a lot of hypnosis--couple of hours daily. I work on different areas. I have to work to be desperate about every shot. When it doesn’t come naturally, you have to build it. In a 60-shot competition, you might have the motivation for 10 shots. But in this sport, you have to have it for all the 60 shots; you can’t win by performing at 80% of your capacity. You can’t make a mistake. You have to be needy and desirous of getting every bloody shot right. In a lot of sports, you can make a mistake or an opponent can make one. In this sport, there is no margin for error.

    Is it difficult for you to handle attention?
    Yes, it has been incredibly difficult. I am not naturally open to it; I don’t want it. I’ve had to adapt myself to deal with it. For example, I need time to prepare myself for a day of interviews.

    Yamini Deendayalan is a Features Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

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    Posted on 31 October 2011



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