It is unusual, you will agree, to read the final three chapters of a book first – even if it is revised and updated. You want to be able to get into the right frame of mind before you reach the new climax but Abhinav Bindra’s gentle nudge led me to the new chapters in his book A Shot At History: My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold and Beyond.
It is always a challenge to pick up the tone and tenor of a story when adding new portions to it some six years later. However, together with his friend and journalist Rohit Brijnath, Abhinav Bindra has managed to sustain the magic and keep the reader’s attention hooked. If anything, it only enhances the ace shooter’s reputation as the monk with the air-gun.
The thread of honesty strings together the narration of his journey from gold at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 through missing out on qualification for the final of the London Olympics to the fourth-place finish in Rio in 2016. Along the way, there is a numbing revelation about a health condition that made him wonder if he was being defeated by his greatest ally – his brain.
It takes immense courage to dissect ‘failure’ in the London Games and admit mistakes. He now believes that his decision to do a recce of the Games Village, return to Dortmund and then head back to London was a mistake; that he was too placid and lacked certainty. Above all, he recognises that the medal won in Beijing came as a distraction four years later.
It takes more than courage to admit a health condition than challenges the very demand of shooting – stillness. But, along with that fine exponent of the written word, Rohit Brijnath, Abhinav Bindra writes of his visits to doctors for injections to his spine and the Asian Games bronze medal in Incheon infusing him with more belief on his way to his final Olympic rendezvous.
The chapter on Rio has the makings of a suspense thriller – even though Abhinav Bindra is not given to idle drama and we know the outcome. The easiest way to reach the innermost crevices of the champion shooter’s mind is to adopt this unusual route and read the final three chapters of the book first. There is good reason for him to have drawn my attention to the new chapters.
Of course, you have to read the earlier parts of the man’s life to understand why his year-long battle with health in 2014-15 makes his farewell Olympic competition more special to him than perhaps the gold of 2008. But even before you complete reading the epilogue, it is a good wager that your respect for the shooter par excellence, will grow manifold.