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Ones to watch in Delhi: Abhinav Bindra

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Abhinav Bindra targets London 2012

As the first individual Olympic gold medallist India has ever produced, Abhinav Bindra has raised shooting's profile to unprecedented levels in his home country.

But the 10m air rifle specialist was involved in a lengthy wrangle with his own national shooting organisation before being included in the team for the Commonwealth Games, which will be staged on home soil in Delhi.

Bindra, who turns 28 just before the Games begin, successfully overturned a decision to disqualify him from the shooting team when he failed to turn up for national trials, explaining that his coaching regime in Germany meant he could not attend.

At the time, he threatened to quit the sport over an argument he found "frustrating and annoying". Eight months later, he is ready to take aim as one of India's superstars of the Games.

FACTS & STATS

Born: 28 September 1982, Zirakpur, Punjab, India

Trains: Germany

Career highlights: Olympic gold at Beijing 2008, Commonwealth Games gold at Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006, world champion in 2006

PATH TO THE PODIUM
It won't be earth-shattering for me if I don't get a medal this Games

Abhinav Bindra

2010 form: Bindra finished a disappointing 25th at the World Championships in Munich at the end of July, and has admitted he is "not in Olympic form, whatever that means". He has maintained an air of detachment from the Commonwealths that organisers would probably prefer he masked, telling the Times of India: "An athlete can trade 50 Commonwealth medals for one Olympic medal".

Rivals: Niccolo Campriani, this year's 10m air rifle world champion, is a name to look out for and a pub quiz answer in the making. The Italian became the first competitor to officially qualify for London 2012 by winning the world title.

How he could win: The shooting event in India is likely to generate immense interest through Bindra's involvement, and the expected enormity of the home support could help him to victory - not least because other shooters may struggle in an environment few, if any, will have previously encountered in a sport which is rarely well-attended. However, the pressure may equally weigh heavily on the shoulders of India's Olympic poster boy.

Abhinav Bindra, in front of the Commonwealth Games mascot
Bindra is expected to star for the Commonwealth host nation

What he says: "Shooting is a day-to-day sport so anything can happen [at the Commonwealths]. If I win, good. If I don't, then hard luck. An athlete can't sit and sulk if he doesn't get a medal, so it won't be earth-shattering for me if I don't get a medal this Games."

What they say: "When he was five he would place a balloon on the head of his maid and shoot it. We were fearing that a problem would be created if he missed the mark - the maid could get hurt. But he always shot the balloon. He is always cool, never moved by media and publicity. He is a silent killer, silent worker." - His father, AS Bindra

Sporting high: Unquestionably, his Olympic gold medal at the Beijing Games in August 2008. For a country of its size, India's inability to secure an individual Olympic gold until Bindra's success was all but inexplicable. Bindra received India's highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, in the immediate aftermath of his win.

Sporting low: Bindra should really have tied up an Olympic medal four years earlier, in Athens, but cracked under the pressure in the final round and missed out. He was dogged by back problems in the ensuing years, which could have ended his career before he shot to fame in Beijing.

In action: The 10m air rifle final takes place on Wednesday, 6 October.

AWAY FROM SHOOTING
Abhinav Bindra
Bindra's aim remains 2012 rather than the Commonwealths

Life before sport: Bindra grew up in an affluent family environment where he had access to his own indoor shooting range. He went to an independent all-boys school until the age of 12 and later studied Business Management at the University of Colorado in the United States, alongside his training.

Hero worship: Returning from China with a gold medal dangling from his neck, Bindra has spent far more time coming to terms with his own hero status than affording it to others.

Did you know? Bindra now runs his own business, Abhinav Futuristics, which manufactures sporting air rifles in a bid to encourage take-up of the sport in India. "The problem with our sport is that the equipment is very expensive," he said. "I want young kids, who want to try it, to get access to equipment at a lower cost."



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