India celebrates first solo Olympic gold

NEW DELHI, August 11, 2008 (AFP) – India’s first ever individual Olympic gold medal win was greeted at home with disbelief and joy — as well as renewed hope the country could break with its total obsession with cricket.

Abhinav Bindra, a 25-year-old businessman, was lavished with praise after taking gold in the men’s 10m Air Rifle shooting on Monday in one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history.

India, winners of eight field hockey gold medals, had never won an individual Olympic title before Bindra’s feat.

“This is an individual medal. It’s a greater achievement. I was the captain of a team that won a gold but this is far bigger,” said Vasudevan Bhaskaran, captain of the Indian hockey team which won gold at the Moscow Games in 1980.

“I hope this will be an eye opener for all those who have followed only one sport — cricket,” he said.

Tributes were sent by President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, while Bindra’s family home in Chandigarh in northern India was thronged with well-wishers.

“Abhinav has shown the world that an Indian can also stand on the podium,” said Indian track and field legend P.T. Usha, whose b