How Gagan Narang buried Beijing demons at London 2012
Missing out on a medal in shooting at the Beijing 2008 Games was a bitter pill to swallow for Gagan Narang.
The fact that he lost out on the finals in Beijing on countback only made matters worse, lest we forget his form heading into Beijing in the summer of 2008.
The Indian shooter was in stupendous form going into the Olympics that year having grown in confidence with four gold medals from the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Heartbreak in Beijing
He went into the Beijing Games having won a gold medal at the Air Rifle World Cup in 2006 and set a new world record with an Air Rifle score of 704.3 at a pre-Olympic event in Germany.
The shooter from Hyderabad had also qualified for the 2008 ISSF World Cup Final after winning gold at the World Cup in China in early 2008.
Hence, it’s easy to understand the heartbreak and shock he must have endured after agonizingly missing out on qualifying for the final round by one spot.
While dealing with disappointment is an integral part of every athlete’s career, Gagan Narang found himself more deeply affected than most as he watched compatriot Abhinav Bindra create history from afar.
After all, creating history while wielding a gun was everything that Gagan Narang had ever dreamed of as a two-year-old shooting balloons.
A fan of James Bond and his Walther rifle, which inspired Gagan Narang to get into shooting, the marksman from Hyderabad dealt with disappointment like his hero by taking a leaf out of 007’s book and beginning his road to redemption immediately within a week of his exit from Beijing 2008.
Road to London 2012
His return to action picked up momentum with a gold at the 2008 ISSF World Cup Final and gold in the 10m Air Rifle event as well as a bronze in the 50m Rifle 3 Positions at the ISSF World Cup 2009.
The following year brought him even more success in the form of gold in the ISSF World Shooting Championships, four more gold medals in the 2010 Commonwealth games and two silver medals in the Asian Games.
However, despite all his success, the disappointment of Beijing 2008 still burned incandescently deep within him.
His desire to right his wrongs from Beijing was put under even more pressure after the 2008 Olympic gold medallist and his countryman Abhinav Bindra crashed out before the final round at the 2012 London Olympics.
In what was a reversal of fortunes from four years back, Gagan Narang found himself under the limelight as Abhinav Bindra looked on from afar.
The weight of expectation following Abhinav Bindra’s exit intensified as a billion eyes back home pinned their hopes on Gagan Narang to win the nation a medal.
Fulfilling his Olympic dream
Determined to exorcise his demons from Beijing, absolutely nothing was going to get in the way of Gagan Narang and an Olympic medal this time around.
The final saw him demonstrate tremendous temperament and resolve to hold his nerve in a tense climax that witnessed the competitors’ rankings, including that of the top 3, change with every shot.
In the end, though, Gagan Narang managed to keep China’s Wang Tao, who was hot on his heels in the final, at bay and finished with a bronze medal behind Romania’s Alin George Moldoveanu and Italy’s Niccolo Campriani.
It was India’s first medal at the 2012 Olympics and one that lifted a “great stone” off Gagan Narang’s chest in his own words.
“This is the only medal I didn’t have in my cabinet, so now I can pin it on there,” he said after becoming an Olympic bronze medallist.
Gagan Narang has since gone on to add more gloss to his already-stacked medals and trophy cabinet and is a national sports icon. However, nothing could ever take the place of his Olympic bronze as an achievement but more so for the liberating feeling and satisfaction that it gave him.