Of Abhinav Bindra, fear, pizza pole and Olympic gold
New Delhi: Abhinav Bindra’s insane search for perfection had pushed him to climb, as a simulation of sorts, a 40-feet high ‘pizza pole’ that saw him conquer his “fear” and go on to win a historic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Then 26, Bindra became the country’s first individual gold medallist at the quadrennial extravaganza. Days before he would script history, Bindra tried to conquer fear that could “grip” him during an Olympic final, by attempting his hand at what the German special forces normally do.
In a book titled ‘My Olympic Journey’ co-authored by journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose, Bindra said, “I had flown to Beijing from Munich. This was because a few days before leaving for the Olympics, I had decided to get out of my comfort zone and climb a pizza pole, also used by the German special forces. It is a 40-foot-high pole and becomes smaller as one nears the summit, with the platform at the peak the size of a pizza box.
“I started climbing and halfway up decided I could not go on. But this was precisely the reason for attempting the task.
I had to conquer fear, fear that could grip me during an Olympic final. I was scared out of my wits even though I was hooked to safety wires. I pushed on and finally stood trembling at the top.”
Bindra spoke as he recalled his exit at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens that left him in a state of shock.
“… However, it (pizza pole) was an excellent experience as I was able to stretch the limits of my skill and endurance something that is definitely required of an Olympic champion.”
As he was bracing up for the finals in 2008, Bindra said his mind went back to Athens after a poor shot in the warm-up.
“Before the final began, we had five minutes to warm up to shoot the ten most important shots of our life. My first shot in the warm-up was a 4. It was a great shock, and my mind immediately went back to Athens. The first shot in the final was a 10.7, pretty close to bullseye. My experience in the previous Olympics at Athens had taught me a lot about detachment, and I drew from it.
“I did not care whether I won the gold or not. The only concern was that I shoot well at the final. And as a result, those ten shots in Beijing were probably the best shots I have ever fired in my life. Even if I had not won a medal, there would have been no regret.
“My last shot was a 10.8. The perfect shot in shooting is 10.9. When I finished, I didn’t know the exact result, but somewhere at the back of my mind I was confident that I had done well. I had given it my all and was completely drained.”
While he was extremely relieved and at peace with himself after standing on top of the podium, the hullabaloo around left him drained. .