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India shooter Abhinav Bindra wins Olympic gold medal

August 11, 2008 |  5:12 am

Abhinav Bindra BEIJING -- I'll confess. This is a shameless effort to drive traffic to latimes.com.

There are 1.1 billion people in India, more people than in any other country besides China, and a lot of them get their news from the Internet. So why shouldn't they come here to read about Abhinav Bindra, the first gold medalist ever from India in an individual sport?

Besides, it's a pretty good story to know about even if you're not from India.

Abhinav Bindra won the gold medal Monday in the 10-meter air rifle competition. He is 25 years old, comes  from Chandigarh, wears glasses and is ranked merely 17th in the world. He was in fourth place before the final round.

But what makes the story really interesting is that India, in its 108-year Olympic history, had little to show for it in individual sports other than three silver medals, two in 1900 and one in 2004.

It has won eight field hockey gold medals, but none since 1980.  If cricket were an Olympic sport, it would have won more than a few of those. But as Indian tennis player Leander Paes told Bloomberg News, "Cricket is a religion, it's not a sport.''

Thus, Bindra was heavenly honored Monday when the Board of Control for Cricket in India rewarded him with a $59,000 bonus.

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: Gold medalist Abhinav Bindra of India. Credit: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images