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The Rediff Special/Roopa Unnikrishnan

India must give Abhinav respect, kudos, love

August 11, 2008

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Roopa Unnikrishnan, who won the 1998 Commonwealth gold medal in shooting, was delighted to hear about Abhinav Bindra [Images] making history. She sent this special feature from New York, where she is based.

Congratulations to the young shooter who did us all proud -- all Indians, but especially all Indian shooters who have waited for this day. I remember the time when it was a struggle for us to get to a good shooting camp, to get the best ammo or weapons, and the right coaching.

Abhinav Bindra and his family really bear with them the dreams of hundreds of shooters from the past -- as we toiled, there was a sense of a wave slowly surging. The Commonwealth Games [Images] medal felt like an achievement then... and the culmination of that wave is Abhinav's amazing win.

Now begins the next wave -- from this medal to the next aspiration of taking over in all the categories of men and women rifle, pistol, and trap & skeet events!

I have been out of touch with the day-to-day efforts of India's team for about six years now (mostly due to having become a pretty busy working mom in the US), but I do remember the single-minded focus of the young lad, but also his parents, who made sure to send him to shooting camps abroad and focus on one discipline (air rifle.) That's what it takes. Devotion and the recognition that years of hard work will pay off in this extremely special way.

I pray India will give this lad his fair share of respect, kudos and love. This is not the time for breast-beating (the familiar "why can't India win more?"), but a time for celebration ("this is how to do it! Let's go out and keep trying.")

It's about the long haul, the years of daily training and lonely introspection on how to improve that one more thing that can make you that one bit better!!

Rhodes Scholar Roopa Unnikrishnan won the Arjuna Award in 1999, the year after she won a gold medal and set a record in the XVI Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in the women's prone sports rifle. She also won a gold medal at the Asian Shooting Championships in Bangkok in 1999. She was a silver medalist at the World Shooting Grand Prix in Fort Benning, USA, in 1998 and at the XV Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada [Images], in 1994.

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