Pistol ace Manu Bhaker, who is known for stepping up at the biggest stages, asserted that her Tokyo Olympics preparations are going on in full swing. The 19-year-old is making the most of the experience of training in Croatia with the rest of the Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian contingent.
About 13 pistol and rifle shooters are currently undergoing training in Zagreb. The team recently competed as guest invitees at the European Championships in Osijek. They will also participate in the upcoming ISSF World Cup, scheduled to be held from June 22 to July 3.
The Croatian tour will stand the Indian shooters in good stead ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Bhaker is eager to fine-tune her preparations with training sessions in Croatia over the next few weeks before heading to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics.
"The tour is very helpful. We are well looked after, our health and fitness needs are taken care of and, most importantly, we are getting to train at a very good shooting range and with some good competition as well. So, I believe it cannot get better, leading up to the Tokyo Olympics," Bhaker told PTI.
Carrying the huge burden of expectations may seem daunting to some, but Bhaker insists she has a mental approach to coping well. Set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, Bhaker said she would not allow herself to be weighed down by pressure and high aims this time.
"I just want to meet my own expectations. I am not thinking about anything else but focusing on giving my best for India in the Games. I have always shot three events in all the World Cups and other competitions like World Championships so there's nothing different. I am just focusing on doing my best in every event and I am used to working and competing like this," Bhaker added.
Don't think I'm the biggest medal hope at Tokyo Olympics: Bhaker
Currently ranked second in the world, Manu will have a shot at earning medals across three events, including women's 10m Air Pistol, women's 25m Pistol, and 10m Air Pistol mixed team events. She is only the second Indian shooter to compete across multiple events at a single edition of the Olympics.
Having outclassed some of the biggest names in the sport, the teenager will enter Tokyo as the firm favorite to become the youngest Olympic champion. But the modest Commonwealth and Youth Olympic Games champion insists many of her teammates have a realistic chance of finishing on the podium as well.
"I don't think I am the biggest medal hope... that is unfair. In our shooting team itself, I don't see anyone who is not the biggest medal hope. Then there are world class athletes in other sports as well for example badminton, weightlifting, wrestling, archery, boxing and the like," she said.
She put up a strong show in the Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) section of the women's 25m Pistol event at the European Championships last week, finishing ahead of countrymate Rahi Sarnobat. At a time when the Tokyo Olympics are only 44 days away, Bhaker has been using the time to take a long, hard look at reworking her game and focusing on consistency.
"Yes, I had good scores but I feel I need to keep improving, it's a constant process. I am working to get more consistent in training first and then it will come in competitions as well. I am enjoying my training and everyday I have something specific to work on, so I am happy with the way things are progressing," she explained.