The 37-year-old spoke about the impact of sports on people.
Inspired to make the world a better place through sport, India’s only individual Olympic gold medal-winner Abhinav Bindra has started working with his shooting compatriot Niccolo Campriani, a three-time Olympic champion who is currently on a mission to help refugees make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.
Over the past couple of years, Campriani has been training three refugees Mahdi, Khaoula and Luna to qualify for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo in his event, 10-meter air rifle shooting, and his journey has been documented in the new series “Taking Refuge: Target Tokyo 2020”. The five-episode Olympic Channel original series premiered on Monday on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) global media platform.
The first-ever refugee team participated in the 2016 Olympic Games held at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and it consisted of a collection of athletes who had unfortunately been displaced from their home countries. This small team inspired Campriani to work for the betterment of refugee athletes.
He said, “Sport is made of stories, not medals. Some of them are legendary, some are drama, and some others don’t have the happy ending that one would expect. Taking Refuge is a story of hope, a story that combines the sporting challenge of qualifying for the Olympic Games in less than 1,000 days with the inspirational determination of a group of refugees.”
Indian shooting legend Abhinav Bindra entered the project by chance when he met Campriani during one of his visits to the IOC’s headquarters. As soon as he came to know about the project, he joined them and is now an integral part of their team.
Speaking about it at a virtual media briefing at the premiere of aking Refuge: Target Tokyo 2020, Abhinav Bindra said, “I have seen the power of sports to change lives first hand. I know it changed mine. I was really taken in by the story and more importantly by his passion for the concept.”
“I even went on to interact with them at the World Archery Excellence Centre (in Lausanne, Switzerland). I was really touched by their resolve, their determination and commitment and I felt very deeply that I had to contribute to the project. I almost immediately volunteered to help in any way that I could. And one year later, here we are.”
He had also hosted a camp for the three trainee shooters at the Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance Centre in Bengaluru last year. He explained, “The primary intention was to get the shooters to come to my centre in Bengaluru and train and interact with the athletes here. It’s a group of athletes that I am proud to say are currently some of the most competitive shooters in the world.”
He further added, “The athletes not only got to experience a new country and a new culture but also gave them a new perspective on training and how to navigate the pressure of the competition. It was a wonderful experience for all of us to have them in India and I am sure that it will reflect in the episode as well.”
The ace shooter also shared his insights on what lies ahead for the team. Abhinav Bindra, “Our journey has proved, time and time again, that sports has the power to unite people. And Nicco [Campriani] and I are both excited about what lies ahead. We really hope that this project will touch the lives of many more in the world. Nicco, from the beginning, has always told me that he envisions this project to be taken forward by more Olympic champions and fellow athletes as they take on more refugees to be a part of the project.”
“For the next steps, we are already actively looking to interact with athletes that are interested in taking the project forward, whatever the sport may be. We will be glad to lend our expertise and share our insights that we have learned along the way to ensure those who do pick up the project will be able to hit the ground running,” he concluded.