Top gun Bindra, Bhiwani boys of India make Beijing memorable


Beijing : A bespectacled babyface gunner, an unheralded grappler and a Bhiwani trio, hand in glove, chose the biggest occasion on earth to strut their stuff and for once India would return home from the Beijing Olympics with head held high and not hung in shame.

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Three medals for a billion-strong country which aspires to be a global super power may not trigger wild celebration back home but in a cricket-biased country, for once the athletes managed to knock their rich — and often spoilt — cousins in flannels off page one.

The doping controversy surrounding Monika Devi and the dress fiasco in the opening ceremony where some of the athletes appeared in casuals meant India did not have the perfect start but once competition began, things looked better.

With Abhinav Bindra finally shedding the under-achiever’s tag, Sushil Kumar rising from obscurity to prominence and the Akhil Kumar-led boxing trio of Bhiwani emerging as lord of the rings, India went on to complete its best ever Olympic campaign with one gold and a couple of bronze medals.

India could have finished with a couple of more medals but Akhil Kumar tripped on a Moldovan banana skin and his braveheart protg Jitender stepped into ring with 10 stitches on his chin which won him many hearts but not the bout.

The incredibly unexcitable Bindra shot his way into history in the 10m Air Rifle event, gunning down India’s first individual Olympic gold medal and still wore that indifferent look, as if this was any other tournament and he would have been surprised only if he had missed the medal.