30 Under 30 2024

Here's the magic bullet a five-time Olympian recommends for success

Abhinav Bindra talks about the one thing he would want to rewrite in his historic career as a sportsman if he had the option

Neha Bothra
Published: Jul 26, 2023 12:34:25 PM IST
Updated: Jul 26, 2023 12:57:57 PM IST

Here's the magic bullet a five-time Olympian recommends for successAbhinav Bindra, India's first individual Olympic gold medallist Image: Mexy Xavier 
 
Abhinav Bindra, the first Indian to ever win an Olympic gold in a solo sport, single-mindedly devoted twenty-two years of his life to follow his passion and give it his best shot despite many challenges. In a wide-ranging conversation on Forbes India Pathbreakers, the ace-shooter talks about his untiring quest for perfection and his indomitable spirit to bounce back and persevere despite all odds.   
 

“I’ve achieved many goals in my sports career. I’ve won an Olympic game, a World Championship gold medal, Asian games medals, Commonwealth games, and several others. But if you ask me the question, did I achieve my potential, then the answer is no. I fell very short of achieving my fullest potential and now that I have the luxury of hindsight and the ability to look back, I would attribute that failure to the lack of balance that I had as an athlete,” Bindra says.
 
It is seven years since Bindra hung up his rifle but the values he imbibed as a sportsman continue to light his path as an entrepreneur. The five-time Olympian shares his plans for the future and why he believes the next decade is going to be the decade of sports in India. Edited excerpts:
 

‘Find that balance’

The greatest moments in my sports career came when I was a student athlete. That is when I had balance. I had only so many hours to train, and I had to study, and due to that balance, I performed my best though I did not get a gold medal at the Olympics. But I did not achieve that performance in my twenty-two years.
 
It takes courage to let go, especially when you have that kind of a personality where you are a little obsessive and have a perfectionist streak. It’s tough to let go and do other things because you believe that training 14 hours instead of 13 hours will do you good. But, sometimes, stepping back does you even more good. I achieved many goals in my sports career. I won an Olympic game, a world championship gold medal, Asian games medals, Commonwealth games, and several others. But if you ask me the question, did I achieve my potential, then the answer is no. I fell very short of achieving my fullest potential and now that I have the luxury of hindsight and the ability to look back I would attribute that failure to the lack of balance that I had as an athlete.
 
While it is very easy to say it, but to actually put it into practice is hard. In corporate life, you talk about work-life balance, but how many people actually follow it. It’s difficult. But I think it is very important. Having the ability to find that balance I think is the key to achieving one’s fullest potential. I think that’s the only thing I would like to change but frankly you don’t have that option so why dwell on it.
 
I look at life day to day and am grateful for what I have rather than dwell on what I don’t. I think it is about acknowledging how grateful we should be as human beings and really try and find joy in the little things of life. That is how I try and live it but, of course, I get frustrated sometimes on that and don’t follow through completely on that but it is my attempt.

Part one: How Abhinav Bindra used failure as a springboard for success
 

‘A new journey’

There was also a lot of adaptation that was needed in my career transition [after he retired in 2016]. When I was an athlete, it was all about me. Success or failure was really dependent on my performance. But now in work, life, and business, whatever I do, it’s not just dependent on me. It’s a whole team. You are no longer the central character of the story and that I think is a mental switch that needs to be made. But throughout my career I learnt how to adapt and this was just something I had to make peace with and I was absolutely fine with it. It’s a new journey, new struggle, and it’s enjoyable. You start at the base, one step at a time. You find joy in effort. You be patient. You try and focus on the process. These are exactly the values that my sports career taught me.   
 
Fifty percent of my time is devoted to my business, which is transitional healthcare. I’ve set up these cutting-edge centres, which work on neurological rehab, orthopaedic rehab, cardiac rehab, and, of course, a lot about sports medicine and rehab and a lot on prevention and working on performance enhancement for athletes and non-athletes. That is an area where I see growth in the future because I think the healthcare business model in India is critical care and transitional care is not taken seriously enough as yet but it will be.
 
Fifty percent of my time is devoted to my foundation. My primary outreach to sport in India is through my foundation and there we work on three pillars. The first pillar is intervention. We have three projects in this area. The second pillar is education. It is not just about empowering the athlete it is about creating an ecosystem which is world class. We’ve set a sport medicine and research institute. It’s giving out degree in sports science and physiotherapy to start with. We have a faculty from around the world to deliver these lectures. The third and most important pillar is using the power of sport for social good. Our current project is bringing in the Olympic Value Education into India. Our current programme is underway in 100 schools and 35,000 kids are going through this programme and, of course, we are going to scale up every year.
 

‘Sports has a bigger role to play’

The clear prioritisation of sport by the government and the initiatives they have introduced are very positive. You can rank India among the top countries that support elite athletes when it comes to preparation. There are a lot of positives happening. But, of course, we are a big country and there is so much scope to do more but I guess one has to patient. We are on the right track and the next decade is going to be the decade of sports in this country. Sport can play a very important role in how our society evolves and develops apart from just sporting success on the field which I believe will any which way get better. But sport has a much bigger role to play in nation building.

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