India's lone Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra is, without doubt, one of the most determined athletes to have ever represented the nation.
The 38-year-old comes across as a serious and studious guy but Indian rifle shooter Shimon Sharif, who trained alongside Bindra at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range, New Delhi in 1996, has seen a lighter and humorous side to Bindra.
Sharif, the first Indian to make the international grade in 10m running target shooting, revealed that initially he saw Bindra as a kid who just wanted to shoot as a sporting proclivity. But soon his views changed as Bindra displayed steely focus.
He reminisced that Bindra was somebody who would never waste time by unnecessarily socializing with others during his formative years. Sharif, however, reasserts that he never imagined Bindra would win an Olympic gold.
The Dehradun-born shooter would go on to win the 10m Air Rifle event in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
"My first impression was of a rich kid who just wanted to shoot guns. He used to speak less with other shooters at the range and so I initially thought he was also snobbish. But not many know that he is very friendly and also has a great sense of humour," Shimon Sharif told the Olympic Channel.
"Yes he was always focussed and very hard working as a shooter. After a training session or a competition, Abhinav would move out of the range quickly and never liked wasting time socializing with others. He came, shot and left.”
Sharif recalled spending time with Bindra as he was making early strides at the National Shooting Championships and later went abroad (Germany) to train under foreign coaches.
"My first competition alongside Abhinav was the 1997 National Shooting Championship in Delhi. Abhinav shot 568 to win gold and I shot 4 points less to win the silver. This was his first medal at the Nationals," Sharif said.
Later he started training abroad with the best coaches of the world. He skipped a few National competitions and was back for the 2000 National Championship at Phillaur, Punjab where he was crowned as the senior national champion," he added.
The champion's body language that Bindra displayed on and off the shooting range should be taken as a lesson by the aspiring shooters. Bindra, apart from his feat in the Olympics, has accumulated more than 150 medals, including a World Championship gold in 2006, in a glittering career. And Sharif asserts that his success is a result of sheer determination and a strong mindset.
"He was very determined to make it big in the sport. Once he started training abroad and made rapid progress in the late 90s, I knew he would make it big but who could have imagined back then that he would go on to become an Olympic champion," he added.