A Shot at History was published in 2011 roughly three years after Abhinav Bindra won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bindra (with co-author Rohit Brijnath) writes honestly, starting with the puzzle most lay persons (including me) have – what is so riveting about a sport like shooting that entails no movement? Drawing you in with that question for bait, he shows you how difficult the quest to be still is and the extent to which an athlete aiming for an Olympic gold in shooting must go, to get that elusive perfectly still moment in which all works well and a coveted score is had without intent tripping the result. The burden of too deliberate an intent affecting outcome makes the moment of pulling the trigger seem a bit like quantum physics. But that is what it appears to be – in as much as there is a method to the madness of being perfect, being able to repeat it, shot after shot, competition after competition has an element of chance by universe. And yet with years of practice preceding a perfect shot would you call it chance?
The book may be accused of overdoing its intense dissection of the art of shooting perfectly, but staying so it drives home the specter of Bindra’s sport being a contest separated by decimals in a field of already perfect scores. The book introduces the reader to the author’s love for the sport, details of the sport, the equipment used, the moments spent competing, the disciplined training, the competitors and coaches, the competitions ranging from those in India to the World Championships and Olympics – in short the world of competitive shooting. You can’t have a better guide for the journey than Bindra.
The penultimate chapter, which tells how officials mess up sports in India, is a treat to read, coming as it does from the only Olympic gold medalist India has yet produced.
If you haven’t read this book, read it.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)