Abhinav Bindra returns to a hero’s welcome

NEW DELHI: India’s first individual Olympic gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra returned from Beijing on Thursday to be immediately engulfed by an adoring crowd, followed by a series of meeting with dignitaries.

President Pratibha Patil invited the ace shooter to Rashtrapati Bhavan within hours of his arrival. Similar meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi were scheduled later Thursday.

Before his meeting with the president late Thursday morning, the winner in the 10-metre Air Rifle competition went with his parents Babli and AS Bindra to meet sports minister MS Gill amid huge media presence.

“I am overwhelmed and honoured that I have got a chance to meet these people. It is a proud moment for me,” Bindra told reporters after meeting the sports minister.

“It is a grand welcome and I am very happy.”

Bindra returned in the early hours of Thursday, to be greeted by a huge gathering at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport that was present to receive the star shooter.

A band played and people danced the Bhangra as Bindra stepped out of the airport looking surprised by the grand reception.

A large number of sports buffs and officials of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) were present.

“It’s a huge honour. I never expected such a welcome,” Bindra told the media at the airport after arriving by an Air China flight from Beijing three days after his medal win.

Asked what he would do for sports, now that he is an icon in India, Bindra replied: “I will do something”.

Policemen were deployed at the airport in strength and the shooter was whisked away in a small motorcade of three cars.

The country’s latest sports icon was received by his parents, relatives and friends, as some in the crowd kept shouting his praise.

“Jab tak chand aur suraj rahega, Bindra tera naam desh yaad rakhega (as long the sun and the moon are there, the nation will remember you, Bindra),” shouted some youths.


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