When Manu Bhaker was first taken to a shooting range by her father, she was only 14. Her father wanted her to try a hand at it, and after a few rounds at the range, she quickly found herself nailing the dead centre of the target almost every time.
What Manu didn’t know at that time was that, in two years, she would go on to break two National records in shooting.
Fast forward to 2018, to the International Shooting Sport Federation—the ISSF World Cup— in Guadalajara, Mexico, she was preparing for her last shot at the 10m Air Pistol.
With just 1.4 points behind Mexico’s Alejandra Zavala Vazquez, a multiple World Cup and World Cup Finals gold medallist. Manu steadied herself and with focus landed her shot, which scored her point of 10.6 bringing her total to 237.5.
It all came down to the last shot of the Mexican, and with her final score, which was 8.8, her total was 237.1. Thus, Manu’s gold was secured with just a 0.4 difference, making her the youngest Indian at the age of 16 to win a World Cup Gold.
“I just told myself to focus on my technique irrespective of my standing in the final. I just did that, and it worked,” Manu told TOI. She added that “This medal will motivate me to reach greater heights in the future, and I dedicate this to my family and coaches, who have been supportive throughout,”
Earlier, in the qualification round, Manu had qualified fifth with a score of 572, which is a new Juniors’ Qualification World Record. Also, since ISSF changed the rules from January 1, 2018, to bring gender equality in the sport, this is the first World Cup where women shooters hit 60 shots in the qualifications rather than the conventional 40 shots for women.
Bhaker, who hails from the Dadri district in Haryana, trains for four to five hours every day at the Universal Senior Secondary School in Jhajjar, which is the only place with a shooting range and is located at a distance of is 25 km away from her residence.
Manu is a star athlete. She has been a state-level skating champion, is adept at tennis, swimming and has won medals in athletics in school meets. She was also a former boxing champ and was into thang ta—a Manipuri martial art.
In December 2017, she participated at the 61st National Shooting Championship in Thiruvananthapuram where she won the 10m air pistol event, eclipsing the highly-experienced Heena Sidhu with a score of 242.4, breaking Heena’s long-standing record of 240.8.
“I have full faith in my daughter’s talent and ability. Mark my words, she could be in the 2020 Olympics” Manu’s mother told India Today.
Great going, Manu! Like your mother, we too are confident of your talent.
Hey, you may also like: Manali Girl Creates History, Brings Home India’s First Skiing Medal!