Pistol sensation Bhaker eyes glory at world stage
By Abhishek Hore
New Delhi, Feb 11 (PTI) Shooting happened to her by chance after a brush with contact sports and Manu Bhaker, a multifaceted pistol sensation eyeing global success at the tender age of 16, is also trying to leave behind her "intense love" for pummeling opponents.
After a series of eye-catching performances in recent times, Bhaker is hoping to leave a lasting impression at the ISSF World Cups (both junior and senior), Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics.
"I am looking forward to these big events with hope. I would try and perform to the best of my ability and make a mark," Bhaker told PTI during an interview.
In her quest, Bhaker, who hails from Dadri district in Haryana, trains at the Universal Senior Secondary School in Jhajjar for four to five hours every day.
For someone who took to shooting just a little over two years ago, breaking two long-standing national records in a span of less than a month would easily qualify as some achievement.
"Before shooting I was into boxing, thang ta - Manipuri martial art. I was playing those sports because I love bashing my opponents. I really enjoy it," she said.
She was not just participating there but also thriving, winning quite a few medals in thang ta national championships, before boredom cut short her brush with contact sports.
An eye injury during a boxing bout, and her mother decided that she had had enough of "fighting".
"I have full faith in my daughter's talent and ability. Mark my words, she could be in the 2020 Olympics. Her life is more important than anything else, so I made her quit boxing and thang ta," her mother said.
Bhaker has already stamped her class in the tournaments she competed in, and is now focussed on the upcoming events.
Asked about her inclination to break records, Bhaker brushed it off as happenstance.
"It just happens. I don't think about them. At times I don't even know what the records are.
"I am grateful to all my coaches for their advice and the hours they have put in to hone my technique," Manu said after claiming gold in 10m air pistol event for girls in the recently-concluded Khelo India School Games.
She didn't just win the gold but also broke two junior national records inside an hour -- first in qualifying and then followed it up with another record-breaking performance in the finals.
Last December, she won the 10m air pistol event, outclassing the highly-experienced Heena Sidhu at the 61st National Shooting Championship in Thiruvanthapuram where she broke Heena's long-standing national record.
She won a staggering 15 medals, including nine gold, during the tournament.
Besides boxing and thang ta, she was also a state-level skating champion, was adept at tennis, swimming and won medals in athletics in school meets.
Bhaker's tryst with shooting began when her father took her to the range and asked her to try her hand at the sport. She fired a few shots that found the centre of the target and the rest is history