The Indian shooting contingent's dismal performance at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 was a topic that was widely discussed among the sporting fraternity, with not one shooter part of the 15-member squad finding a spot on the podium across disciplines.
Barring Saurabh Chaudhary, none of the other shooters made the final, quashing the dreams of many Indian fans who had pinned their hopes on a rich medal haul from the shooting event.
One among those who endured a dismal Tokyo Olympics campaign was young Manu Bhaker, who had to deal with a weapon malfunction that cut short her chances of making the finals in the 10m Air Pistol event.
Reminiscing about the unfortunate sequence of events that transpired on the day, Manu Bhaker, in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, shed some light on what went wrong for her during the Olympics.
"Honestly, it was a chaos. Before the match day, I couldn't sleep. I tried everything to fall asleep and get 7-8 hours of sleep but I just couldn't because thoughts were going on like 'what if this happens, what if that happens, what if it goes right, what if it doesn't go good, what if I disappoint people', that was the biggest challenge, to put my thoughts away and focus."
"I couldn't do that properly and that was what went wrong. During the match as well, I became a little defensive. My focus was not on shooting 10 or good shots, but rather, I didn't want to shoot bad, that was what I was scared about. So many people were expecting good out of me, so I was thinking 'what if I disappoint my federation, my sports authority', my brain was overflowing and that was not good."
Manu Bhaker excited to battle 'butterflies in the stomach' to put up a show in 2023 and beyond
Putting aside the Tokyo Olympics 2020 debacle, Bhaker has shot her way back to prime form, clinching 10 medals (9 gold, 1 silver) in the recently concluded National Shooting Championships to end 2022 on a high.
Working alongside Samaresh Jung, 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for Bhaker. There's not just the Asian Games in sight but also a 2024 Olympics berth to be claimed and the young shooter is optimistic about what is to come.
"Shooting is always very exciting for me. Especially shooting at the World Championships, Asian Games or the Olympics is a different feeling, more than just butterflies to perform in big tournaments. The feeling it gives while standing on the lane, we're really conscious of wanting to do great but then you're scared also about what if things don't go right but next year is going to be huge and I am having a very positive feeling about next year and the year to come after that."
The 20-year-old, who is the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup, will next be in action at the shooting trials that will be organized by the NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) in January 2023.