Ravi Kumar: This medal belongs to Abhinav Bindra

Susan Ninan in Gold Coast3 Minute Read

Ravi Kumar ran his index finger around the rim of the metal disc which hung from his neck by a broad, brown ribbon. He'd just won a bronze in the 10m air rifle final. His mind raced back to four years ago in Glasgow when he'd lost out on a podium finish.

The man who'd changed the contours of Indian Olympic history, had turned around Ravi's life too.

"I couldn't be here without Abhinav Bindra...this medal belongs to him," says Ravi, 28, clasping the fingers together.

Just before heading to Guadalajara for the World Cup last month, Ravi stuck to what his pre-competition routine has been for some time now: Visiting Bindra at his home in Mohali.

"I could never handle the finals. I just didn't know how to shoot once I got there and that's how I kept missing medals. But Abhinav has helped me overcome that obstacle. One thing that he told me and that has stuck in my mind was that each of the 24 shots in the final is different and I shouldn't try to shoot them in the same way. I kept telling myself that through the final. I felt I could have done even better though."

Briefly in second position in the finals, Ravi shot a 10.5 and moved up to first just ahead of the 17th shot while fellow Indian Deepak Kumar was eliminated. A shoot-off with Australia's Alex Hoberg followed and he went on to finish with 9.3 and 10.2 in his last two shots and a total of 224.1 to assure himself a bronze.

Shooter Ravi Kumar with Abhinav BindraPhoto: Ravi Kumar

"Bindra has always been my hero. So it was special when I beat him at the Nationals five years ago." Together with Bindra and Sanjeev Rajput, Ravi also won bronze at the 2014 Asian Games.

"Apart from my shooting, Bindra has had a huge influence in me getting more disciplined. Also, competing together for events like the Commonwealth and Asian Games has helped me learn a lot from him on how to handle big-match situations. He likes to do everything right, be it eating, sleeping or training. I wasn't anything like that. But now that's rubbed off on me too."

Ravi spent his initial years in the sport, shooting with borrowed rifles. His father, who worked in a sugar mill later managed to pool in money to buy him his first weapon. "I was from a middle class family, so it was not easy for me to sustain myself in the sport, but after I joined the Air Force in 2010, things have gotten better."

Injury cost him a year and a half and a Rio Olympics appearance. Again, Bindra was at the Meerut-born shooter's aid, helping him recuperate at his center in Mohali. "That phase pushed me to the edge mentally. But to come back and be here, I owe it all to Abhinav. Once I reach India, I think he's the first person I'd want to go meet."