Abhinav Bindra is India’s only individual Olympic Gold medalist. His gold in the 10-meter air rifle event at the 2008 Summer Olympics was also India’s first Olympic gold medal since 1980. He now serves as the CEO of Abhinav Futuristics Private Limited, an organization that works to bring science and technology into the sport and healthcare sectors. With Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance (ABTP), a group of sports science and advanced physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR) center. The Playknox spoke with him about how has the current Covid-19 scenario changed things, how sporting organisations can raise mental health awareness and his involvement with the Make a Mark project.
Tell us about your venture ABTP. How are you ensuring a safe environment within all your centres given the current scenario?
I have had the opportunity to lead a life involved in high performance sport for over 20 years. I was fortunate to get the best support with cutting edge science and technology, which is essential to succeed in the elite world of sport. The Centres under ABTP are initiatives where I look to bring the same opportunities to India, through which Athletes can receive the best of Science and Technology, to bring the Values of Sport and High-Performance into everything that they do! The devices are also used in Advanced Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation. We currently have 6 Centres across the country (Mohali, New Delhi, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Pune, and Gurgaon) and they are open to all looking to be more Physically Self Aware, and to strive for excellence, whatever their needs be!
Currently, given the scenario, a lot of our sessions are happening through Video Sessions, where an athlete has been given a home programme (based on the data already available), and the physiotherapist monitors the day-to-day, and customises it based on conversations detailed at maintaining the best possible form and performance. In addition, at the centres that are open, PPE and Sanitation protocols are in place to ensure the safest possible environment is available.
Would you say the government’s support has been adequate to aid the players during the lockdown? What can be further done to improve the situation?
The government has been proactive and cautious in its handling of the situation, which I commend; it is by no means an easy situation to be in. Many state governments are taking this time to help athletes in the form on online lectures and virtual support to help bolster other skills of the athlete. Regular communication and decisive action based on the situation would continue to be the way to go until we see light at the end of the figurative tunnel.
Badminton coach Pullela Gopichand and former Indian cricketer Anil Kumble at ABTP, Bhubaneswar
Do you reckon the current Indian shooting squad for Olympics is prepared to bring back the medals?
I am very impressed with the new generation of Shooting athletes India has produced. They are level-headed, dedicated, and are extremely hard-working. It is important for them to continue making the most of the available opportunities and stay mentally strong. I am sure that they will take advantage of this extra year and make a name for themselves at Tokyo!
Why do you think more brands should come forward to support/sponsor shooters?
Like any athlete, shooters need the resources and the support to pursue excellence, and leave nothing to chance. The Corporate Sector can play a huge role in identifying talented individuals, and supporting them while they rise to the top. Of course, no investment in an athlete guarantees success, but the fact that there are companies willing to invest for the benefit of sport will encourage athletes to push themselves and that can only be good for the development of the sport.
Do you think enough importance is being paid by organisations/federations towards mental health of players? What can be done to further raise the awareness? How do you ensure the same for yourself?
Mental Health is a very dear topic to me, and it is paramount to not just performing well in sport, but for one’s own development as a human being. Athletes are by no means superhuman, and a psychologically safe environment must be established in order to help them mentally condition themselves better. A lot is left to be done, but that can be bridged by maintaining open lines of communication between athletes and coaches, empowering support staff and families to discuss mental health, the de-stigmatisation of mental illness, and creating access to literature and information on the awareness of Mental health issues. An IOC Certified Diploma Course and a short-term Certificate Course on Mental Health and Elite Sport have also been organised, where more stakeholders can empower themselves with the knowledge to propagate Mental Health amongst the Athlete community and beyond.
You are involved in the Make a Mark project which has managed to impact many. How did you get involved and what does the project aim to achieve and how?
The project is indeed a noble initiative by Niccolo Campriani, a close friend and former rival in the Shooting Community! Under the project, we have helped three refugees rehabilitate their lives through Sport. The aim is to teach them the sport, help them participate in tournaments, and be eligible for selection to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. As a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, my travel got me in touch with Nicco in Lausanne, who told me about the plans he had. I was taken in by the story, and more importantly, his passion for the concept. I even went to interact with Khaoula, Mahdi and Luna at the World Archery Excellence Centre. I was touched by their resolve and commitment, and I felt that I had to contribute to the project. I immediately volunteered to help in any way that I could, and one year later, the interest and support it has received from unexpected places is baffling at times, and extremely touching. It goes to show the power of sport to transcend borders, race, and culture.
For the next steps, we are actively looking to interact with athletes that are interested in taking the project forward, whatever the sport. We are glad to lend our expertise and share insights we have learnt along the way to ensure that those that do pick the project up going forward can hit the ground running!
The Website www.makeamark.sport will grow into a one-stop bank for information on the athletes going forward, where their updates on training, tournaments, and other information will continue to come up. Through the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, we also are putting a format together to begin crowdfunding, should people feel the need to contribute to the project.