India’s gold drought ends

NEW DELHI, Aug 11 (Reuters)Abhinav Bindra’s mother joked that his Olympic triumph had made him “the country’s most eligible bachelor” as Indians celebrated a historic first individual gold medal.

 

Bindra’s family led the party after victory in the 10m air rifle event brought joy to a nation of more than one billion.

 

“He has won the greatest medal in the world,” an ecstatic A.S. Bindra, the shooter’s father told Reuters. Bindra senior is a successful businessman who has provided his son with an air-conditioned shooting range where he can train.

 

Neighbours and strangers streamed in and were offered sweets at the family home in the northern city of Chandigarh.

 

Babli Bindra, his mother, quipped: “Now I have lots of work ahead as he is the country’s most eligible bachelor.”

 

Already, the 25-year-old shooter’s female fan base is growing.

 

“Abhinav, will you marry me? My parents will have to buy that much less GOLD now,” read one congratulatory message posted by ‘Kaveri’ on the Reuters website.

 

The family held a special prayer session on Sunday and brought out a newspaper advertisement urging people to pray for their son.

 

Bindra’s victory eclipsed everything else on Indian TV channels which hailed it as a morale booster for a country with few global sporting stars.

 

People poured on to the streets in several cities, strangers hugged each other and exchanged sweets and congratulatory messages after the victory.

 

As the shooter fixed his gaze on the final target, the moment condensed the hopes of an entire nation starved of a solo Olympics gold.

 

He hit a near perfect 10.8 in a brilliant final shot to pull ahead of Henri Hakkinen of Finland, who stumbled in his last shot allowing China’s Zhu Qinan, the favourite, to take the silver.

India had only won four individual medals, none of them gold, since sending their first team to the Summer Games in 1928.

 

The Indian men’s hockey team have won the Olympic tournament eight times, but the last time was in 1980.

 

“We perhaps did not expect a gold and had long resigned to the fact that India performs poorly in the Games,” said Subir Mukherjee, a Kolkata resident.

 

Former Indian athletes stars hailed the victory, saying the gold will now spur the Indian team in the Beijing Games.

 

“It is a great achievement,” Vasudevan Baskaran, captain of the 1980 gold-winning hockey team told Reuters. “I’m thrilled, more than when we won our last gold medal.”

 

“It is important we won a gold medal at the early stages of the Games.” he said. “This will change the way our athletes perform whether it is shooting, archery, boxing or badminton.” (Additional reporting by Jatindra Dash, Geetinder Garewal, Sujoy Dhar and N. Ananthanarayanan; editing by Keith Weir)

 

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