In a proud moment for India, ace sharp shooter Manu Bhaker has been selected for three events in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics scheduled in July 2021. She will be fielded in both the women’s 25m pistol alongside the experienced Rahi Sarnobat, and in the 10m air pistol event with Yashaswini Singh Deswal. Bhaker will also represent India in the mixed team 10m pistol alongside Saurabh Chaudhary.
“We are proud of Manu; it has been two years, since she has been participating in all the three categories. Her training has been going well — since shooting is practised indoors, it is being handled well, even during Covid-19. Previously, she was training at home, but now Manu is practising in the range. All the equipment is available, and in case of any problem, Olympics Gold Quest (OGQ) helps. If there are budget constraints, the federation helps. We are looking forward to her performance at the Olympics,” shares Ram Kishan Bhaker, her father, with MAKERS India.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) selection committee, led by president Raninder Singh, announced a 15-member shooting contingent for the Tokyo Olympics. To deal with the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19, the national body has also named two reserves in each discipline, where shooters have won quotas for the games.
World no 1 and India’s young rifle ace, Elavvenil Valarivan will represent India in the women's 10m air pistol event. According to media reports, Valavrivan was selected over quota winner Chinki Yadav, who had recently clinched a gold medal in the ISSF World Cup in Delhi.
Anjum Moudgil along with Apurvi Chandela, who had both earned quota for the Tokyo Games at the 2018 World Championships, will be fielded in women's rifle 3 positions event along with Tejaswini Sawant.
As per media reports, the shooters were selected based on their performance in the NRAI's four-year Olympic qualifying cycle that considered the 2018 Jakarta Asian Game, World Championship (both in 2018), all four World Cups and Asian Championships in 2019, and selection trials stage 1 and 2 earlier this year.
Journey filled with milestones
Bhaker is no stranger to fame — she was catapulted into the limelight at a very young age, and is considered one of the world’s brightest shooting stars today.
In 2018, she 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.
Bhaker’s grandfather Rajkaran Saheb was a soldier, who witnessed three wars between 1962 and 1971. Although shooting wasn’t 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.
It was her father, a chief engineer in the merchant navy, who encouraged her to take up shooting. He recognised her talent before anyone else, and spent Rs 1.5 lakh on her training.
In no time did his efforts pay off, as Bhaker began clinching medals both at national and international events. In 2017, she won a silver medal at the Asian Junior Championships, and there’s been no stopping ever 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.
Victories to her credit
Bhaker 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 10m air pistol category. Soon after, 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 10m air pistol event.
There were sky-high expectations that Bhaker would win a medal at the 2018 Asian Games, but she couldn’t. She didn’t let the loss impact her; in turn, the Indian prodigy set a record at the 2018 Youth Olympics Games in Buenos Aires, by becoming the first Indian shooter and the first female Indian athlete to clinch a gold at the sporting event.
Despite not being in top form, she also 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.
Bhaker had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics slated to be held in 2020; unfortunately, the event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. This year, all eyes are on this teenage shooter to win big at the Olympics in Tokyo in July 2021.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)