India bagged it's first individual gold medal in the 10-meters air rifle event at the Beijing Olympics. Winner, Abhinav Bindra, has become a national hero courtesy of this medal. India has been on the world stage for the last several years with a booming economy, successful entrepreneurship and popularity of its food and music. Sports is one area where India has lacked. Barring cricket and perhaps chess, Indian sports men and women have not demonstrated excellence in global sporting events.
So it is no surprise that Abhinav Bindra's gold medal has generated a lot of national pride and hope for budding Indian athletes. Abhinav Bindra already met the president of India who felicitated him on his win. Ads are starting to use his name and there are sales in major retail stores to celebrate his success.
Days later, boxer Akhil Kumar advanced to the quarter finals after defeating world champion Sergey Vodopyanov in the bantamweight category. He is now in chasing the second individual gold medal for India.
Sports are also undergoing transformation in a country where sports were never center stage. A couple of high profile wins in the 2008 Olympics are bound to change this. We are already seeing corporate initiatives to fund development programs. Laxmi Mittal has funded several million dollars into a program to train and develop athletes for the 2012 Olympics. Watch out for India in the coming years. Sports will definitely be the next big frontier!