New Delhi: Olympic gold medalist-turned-writer Abhinav Bindra, whose shots have rarely missed the bull's eye, says India does not have a long-range sports policy and culture that encourage children to take up sports as a vocation.

Bindra, who launched his biography, "A Shot at History: My Obsessive Journey to Olympic Gold" this week, which he has co-authored with Rohit Brijnath, was in the capital to promote his book.

"We don't have a sporting culture in the country. Most parents wouldn't want their children in sports. Sports in India is still a social activity. The country requires a conscious effort to promote sport, Cricket overshadows every other sporting discipline in the country" Bindra said.

"Every country has a sport that performs at a higher level. But that does not mean you neglect other sports. Cricket, actually, is played by eight countries," Bindra added.

The biography traces the story of Bindra's life as a 13-year-old when he decided to become a sportsperson and learn to shoot.The choice of the discipline which was unfamiliar to the boy steeped in a culture of sport other than shooting - barring a distant maternal link to guns - was guided by the fact that Bindra was overweight. One of Bindra's maternal ancestors was a general in the Sikh army.

"I was in a boarding school and my father wrote to me every two weeks telling me to play some sport. I looked for something to do - and picked up shooting. I always had a fascination for guns... and control over situations. I am bit of a control freak," the Olympic champion said.

The biography opens with Bindra's early morning sessions. He is reluctant to leave to brave the chill of Chandigarh for his 5 a.m. regimen. And then he revs up.

The first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold, Bindra says he was defeated by a freak chance of events in Athens in 2004. It helped him grow as a marksman and an athlete. Bindra is preparing for the London Olympics in 2012.

The book is a testament to his rigorous practice, in which Bindra pushes his body to extremes. He said he became a scientist, who would try anything, including mapping his own brain.

"I am working on every aspect of my game -- mental and physical. I keep changing as an individual to adapt to new challenges, Training is "good old hard work " Bindra said.
"I am trying to hone the ability to keep myself cut away from the world. Before Beijing, no one knew me. I have to be able to strike a balance between my public life, book launches and my vocation," the ace shooter said.

The 29-year-old shooter spends much of his time home in Chandigarh and in Germany, practising for the London Games.

Bindra says he remains grounded by reminding himself that he participates for himself and his country.
"I am shooting because I want to be the best and it is challenge. People keep getting better," he said.
Bindra aims to inspire future generation of shooters with his book.

"I think the best age to begin shooting as a sport is 15-16. I was a little too young at 13. But India needs to improve training facilities," he said.

For the shooter, Beijing was a lesson and a revelation.

"They identify athletes very young and are very scientific in their approach to sport," he said.

(Agencies)