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Bindra: Deep down, I do feel it... Can’t allow episode to upset me
- A TELEGRAPH EXCLUSIVE : Olympic gold medallist was kept in the dark about contracts.
Abhinav Bindra

Calcutta: Abhinav Bindra, India’s only individual gold medallist in the Olympics, spoke to The Telegraph from London on Thursday afternoon.

The 27-year-old was, as usual, calm despite being cold-shouldered by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI).

With the 2010 Commonwealth Games less than a year away, Bindra is training in a big way. In fact, he’s in London to get sharper in the mind.

Sadly, it’s the NRAI which is doing its bit to distract the champion shooter.

The following are excerpts

Being overlooked for the cricket-style contracts, introduced by the NRAI, after its tie-up with the Sahara India Pariwar

I got to know about the contracts and my omission from the internet yesterday (Wednesday)... Had no idea something like that was on the cards. Nobody from the NRAI spoke to me, so how would I know?

First reaction

(Laughs) Not entirely surprised, as such things keep happening in Indian sport... It’s just that this one got reported and the others haven’t been. Obviously, deep down, I do feel it (the hurt)... However, I can’t allow this episode to upset me or demotivate me... Can’t allow myself to get demoralised... It would be easy to get demotivated, but I’ve got to keep this aside... (After a pause) It would’ve been nice to be a part of something given to the other shooters, but I can’t brood over what has happened... I guess I’ve suffered the most, within, whenever I’ve been outspoken... I wouldn’t like this happening, too, to affect me in any way. Life moves on...

NRAI secretary Baljit Sethi’s comment that he wasn’t considered because “his expectation was too high” and because he’d been getting support from “other quarters”

What expectation? I wasn’t even told about the graded contracts and (three-tier) retainerships... Who spoke to me? How can anybody say that? When I’m kept in the dark, where’s the question of my having or not having a high expectation? As for support from other quarters, I do get funded by the Mittal Champions Trust, but other shooters (Ronjan Sodhi and Heena Sidhu, to name two) also benefit. I’m definitely not alone.

Having been discriminated against

I really don’t know what to say... I would’ve appreciated had somebody from the NRAI called and informed me that I wouldn’t be considered for X or Y reasons... That would’ve been far better than getting to know of my omission from the net. I would’ve accepted the NRAI’s reasoning and not made an issue.

Fifteen shooters benefiting from the tie-up between the NRAI and Sahara

Of course, I’m happy for them... This is a positive step and I’d like to think that my success in Beijing, last year, has played a role in this development... This will give the shooters a sense of security, which is important, and so has to be welcomed... It’s nice that corporates are now looking at shooting, a discipline which used to be neglected.

His funding from the Mittal Champions Trust

Look, it helps in an athlete’s preparations... For example, if I need the services of a particular coach or trainer, then the Trust does the needful... It takes care of the expenses, which is very different from being paid for an endorsement or getting a retainership...

The suggestion that he didn’t need a retainership as he was already earning enough from endorsements

Surely, endorsing products can’t be a crime... Shooting won’t take care of my bread and butter for the rest of my life and, at some point, I’ve got to look at earning options... I’ve been training and shooting for the better part of my life, but I won’t be doing all that for all time to come... The principle at issue here is more important than whether or not I’m earning from endorsements.

Being outspoken

I don’t have an agenda, don’t have a vested interest... You know that... If I say something, it’s because somebody needs to say those things.

Sessions with Chelsea’s top-notch psychologist Tim Harkness

Earlier, he worked out of South Africa and I’d spent around 300 hours with him in the build up to the Beijing Olympics... As part of the neuro feedback training, I’d worked with him on a brain machine... I bought it recently (from Canada) and got it shipped to him... Right now, I’m learning to train on it on my own, because Tim’s move to Chelsea has made him very busy... It’s not a simple gadget... I’ll be working with him till the end of the month and will then spend some time in Germany (with coach Gabriela Buhlmann). I’ve based myself in London and keep travelling to Stamford Bridge (Chelsea’s home ground).

Finally, being selected as the first sportsperson to receive the Commonwealth Games baton, from the Queen, on October 29

I’m looking forward to that event (in London).

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