Former shooting star Abhinav Bindra will announce the winner of the Manorama Sports Star 2019 on Tuesday. The event will be held virtually adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The three final contenders based on the result of the first phase of the SMS and online voting - Nihal Sarin (chess), Chitharesh Natesan (bodybuilding), and Anish P Rajan (disability cricket) - will be present. With a total prize money of Rs 12 lakh, the prestigious award, instituted by Malayala Manorama and Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd, is the largest monetary sports prize in Kerala.
Shooter par excellence
Bindra holds a special place in India's sporting history as the country's lone individual gold medallist at the Olympics. A native of Zirkapur in Punjab, the 36-year-old created history when he won the gold medal in the men's 10m air rifle at Beijing 2008. During his stellar career, he has also won a World Championship gold and multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
After retiring from active sports in 2017, Bindra turned his attention to the field of business and launched Abhinav Bindra Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to scientifically developing future champions from the formative stage of their careers. So far, around 5,000 sportspersons from across the country have benefitted from the initiative.
Bindra has also been involved with the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme, one of India's most significant policies for athlete development. He has also been a part of the ISSF and IOC Athlete Commissions.
"Kerala has a rich and diverse sporting culture. The Manorama Sports Star Award, which identifies and honours the achievements of individuals, is a great way to boost their confidence and let them know their hard work is appreciated," Bindra said in an exclusive interview to Manorama.
What advice would you give to sportspersons in Kerala?
Sports help you explore yourself and find out what you are capable of. You must continuously compete with yourself and strive to become better than the person you were yesterday.
Your historic win at Beijing paved the way for India's shooting revolution as it sparked interest in a new generation of sportpersons. However, has it helped build a sports culture in India?
Having a sporting culture is more about the pursuit of sporting excellence rather than just podium finishes at the Olympics. Winning a medal should not be the only goal. Sports should hold a central place in society. What is required is a conscious effort to make sports an inherent part of our lives.
Communities that derive pleasure from playing, watching and supporting a sport naturally produce future champions. They let children have fun and be successful at their chosen sport. It is important to bring a significant change to the way sports is perceived in our country.
Indian sports ecosystem is far from perfect as it is in the grip of major systemic problems...
It is a major challenge. When the system and the sportspersons are at loggerheads, it only helps weaken the level of sports. Athletes are also human beings and it is important to understand their lives. We should focus on their journey and ensure that we give them everything that they need to excel.
Do you think the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead as planned?
I'm confident that the opening ceremony will take place on July 23. The local organisers are doing everything humanly possible to pull it off. Sports is all about overcoming obstacles and challenges life throws at you.