Abhinav Bindra recalls sleepless night before Olympic gold

Recounting his Beijing 2008 experience, the Olympic champion shooter believes that pressure is inevitable at big tournaments.

By Utathya Nag ·

On the day of his historic Olympic gold at the Beijing Games in 2008, Abhinav Bindra was a picture of concentration and confidence. But things were very different just hours prior.

Shooter Abhinav Bindra registered India’s first-ever individual gold, and the only one till date, at the Olympics after winning the 10m Air Rifle event at Beijing, China, on August 11, 2008 – four days before India’s 62nd Independence Day.

The feat marked a golden dawn in India’s Olympic history, but not before the ace Indian marksman had persevered to overcome a terrifying night on the build-up to the milestone day.

“I don’t think you can prepare for that pressure. The night before was nothing but a panic attack. It was full of anxiety. I think I barely slept,” Abhinav Bindra recalled during an Instagram Live session with table Indian tennis player Mudit Dani.

“What you will learn in sport is that you will face pressure and you can't get away from it,” 

While thousands of hours of dedicated training had him prepared for a medal charge from a technical front, no amount of practice, Abhinav Bindra noted, could’ve prepared him for the crushing pressure he felt on that night.

“It’s important to understand that a training environment and a competitive environment are two different worlds. They will never be the same. You can never recreate these feelings,” the Indian shooter reasoned.

Acceptance, preparedness and process

Abhinav Bindra took the situation in his stride.

“Acceptance of the situation that there will be pressure and just try to absorb it,” he went on to explain his mantra. “It is not necessarily something you will enjoy. If you learn to accept, you will just learn to work with it. That is the most critical thing.

“The moment your mind accepts it, it will find a way to work with it,” he explained. “It’s about finding a way to work with pressure rather than resisting it.”

He also stressed on the need to be flexible and be prepared mentally for the most unpredictable of variables.

“You actually have to work to be perfect on an imperfect day because there will be something that comes up that you haven’t factored in. There will be a certain element of luck in sport which you have to factor in.

And he finally lay emphasis on the process rather than living for an outcome.

“As a young person trying to chase a gold medal at the Olympic Games, I am basing my happiness on the fact that I will win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. That is the worst mindset someone can get into.

“It is very important to remain happy by being process-oriented. You can remain happy by setting smaller goals and acknowledging those smaller goals when you achieve it.

“Live that journey. Don’t always remain totally focused and obsessed with the outcome. Obsess with the process,” he advised.