Teenage sensation Manu Bhaker was catapulted into the limelight at a very young age and is considered one of the world’s brightest shooting stars today.
In 2018 Manu became the youngest Indian shooter to clinch a gold medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF). Before that, she had bagged nine medals at the National Games and a silver at the Asian Junior Championships. In 2020, she was conferred with the Arjuna Award by the government of India for her excellent record in shooting.
On her birthday today here’s all you need to know about this promising sharpshooter:
She comes from a military family in Haryana
Manu’s grandfather Rajkaran Saheb was a soldier, who witnessed three wars between 1962 and 1971. Although shooting was not a distant possibility for her, the teenage shooter from Jhajjar, Haryana, tried her hand at several sports, including Huyen langlon (a form of martial arts), boxing, tennis, and skating, before taking up shooting as a profession.
Manu’s father encouraged her to take up shooting
It was Manu’s father, Ram Kishan Bhaker, a chief engineer in the Merchant Navy, who encouraged her to take up shooting. He recognized her talent before anyone else and spent Rs 1.5 lakh for his daughter. His efforts paid off because in no time Manu had burst onto the national and international scene and started clinching medals.
In one of her interviews, Manu said she hadn’t received much guidance or professional training in her early years, which proved to be a challenge. Despite that, she continued with her practice.
Manu’s first shot at success was in 2017
In 2017, Manu won a silver medal at the Asian Junior Championships, and there’s been no stopping her since. The same year, she won nine medals at the National Games in Kerala and broke veteran World Cup medallist and Olympian Heena Sidhu’s record by scoring 242.3 points.
For Manu, 2018 was a milestone
Manu arrived on the international shooting scene by becoming the youngest gold medallist at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Mexico. Her competitor was Alejandra Zavala, a local favourite in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol category.
Also, in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event she won gold with compatriot Om Prakash Mitharwal.
The same year she participated for the first time in the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast and scored a record 240.9 points to win a gold in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol event.
There were sky-high expectations that Manu would win a medal at the 2018 Asian Games, but she couldn’t. But soon after, she set a record at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires. She became the first Indian shooter and the first female Indian athlete to clinch gold at that sporting event.
Gunning for the Tokyo Olympics
Despite not being in top form, Manu won a gold medal at the 14th Asian Shooting Championships, as well as in the final of the Air Pistol event of the ISSF World Cup in China’s Putian in 2019.
She also teamed up with compatriot Saurabh Chaudhury at all three events of the ISSF World Cups in 2019 and they won gold medals every time. At the final in China, she won both the individual and mixed team event gold.
Manu qualified for the Tokyo Olympics slated to be held in 2020; unfortunately, the event had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, all eyes are on this teenage shooter to win big at the Olympics rescheduled to July.
(Edited by Lena Saha)