Narang guns for more glory
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After winning gold at Beijing four years ago, Abhinav Bindra took a year-long sabbatical to recharge his batteries. You didn't need a working knowledge of shooting to fathom how exhausted his mind must have been.
By then, after all those months spent preparing for the Olympics, the concentric circles of the 10m air rifle target must have invaded his dreams, the 10-point ring growing tinier and tinier till he woke up in a sweat.
Four years on, in the days leading up to the 10m air rifle event in London, Gagan Narang felt some pretty unpleasant physiological effects as well. In his own words, every hour in the shooting range drained him. His insides were eating him. After sub-10 scores in his seventh and eighth shots in the final, his mind was a mess, his head flooding with memories of Beijing, where he finished a hair's breadth outside the eight who qualified for the final. "Thoughts started carpet bombing my brain," he said. "I thought, maybe my Olympics are over."
All this, coupled with the sweet relief of finally getting on the podium, must have induced a massive sense of disorientation in Narang. An hour after landing at the Pune airport, he sat atop a jeep that looked like it had taken a shortcut through a florist's on its way to the Balewadi sports complex to bring up the rear of a procession of roughly 2000, half of whom were either beating drums or setting off fireworks.
When he finally entered the range, Narang found himself having to embrace his parents twice, for the benefit of a small army of photographers who had missed the first hug. They could now complete his welcome with a 21-flashbulb salute.
Narang's ears and pupils must have still been recovering when the inevitable question arrived. What next? Was he contemplating a long break a la Bindra? He wasn't. He was instead seeking to emulate Slovenian Rajmond Debevec, the 49-year-old bronze medalist in the 50m rifle prone event.
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