Back in Jhajjar (Haryana) from the XXI Commonwealth Games 2018, which concluded in Gold Coast, Australia amid a blaze of colour and pageantry on April 15, teenage sharpshooting sensation Manu Bhaker (16) brought home a gold medal after besting 25 shooters from 18 countries in the women’s 10 metre Air Pistol event. But that’s only one of her recent achievements.
In March, Manu became the youngest Indian to strike gold in the 10 metre Air Pistol Junior World Cup (women and mixed) staged in Sydney and Mexico respectively, organised as part of the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup Series. These wins qualify her to compete in the 52nd ISSF World Shooting Championships slated to be held in Changwon, South Korea in September.
In 2015, she quit playing games and sports after suffering an injury during a martial arts class. However, the provision of a 10 metre shooting range in her school — Universal Sr. Sec. School, Goriya (Jhajjar) — opened up a new world of opportunity for her the following year. Expert training and mentoring by school coach Suresh Kumar resulted in Manu winning interschool tournaments and being conferred NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) membership (mandatory for aspirant shooters).
Moreover, her performances in district and state-level tournaments qualified her to compete in the 61st GV Mavlankar Championships (an annual event which qualifies youth for national shooting championships) staged last December in Trivandrum in which she emerged national champion. Prior to national and international tournaments, her routine training includes five hours of shooting practice at Delhi’s Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range followed by meditation sessions.
Despite academic pressure for her class XII board exams slated for March 2019, this champion markswoman has set herself an ambitious agenda for 2018 — the XVIII Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang in August, ISSF World Shooting Championships in Changwon and the 5th Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. “Winning an Olympic medal for India is my ultimate dream. I am practising hard to maintain my place in the national team and enable my selection for international events. I’m also training to participate and win 25 metre Air Pistol events in the future,” says this go-getting teen who has many years ahead to make the nation proud again.
Swati Roy (Delhi)