NEW DELHI: Manu Bhaker had nearly been reduced to tears just a few hours ago. Having missed her last chance to secure a quota for India in the 10m air pistol event here at the ISSF shooting World Cup on Tuesday, she was visibly heartbroken and was left searching for answers. Having hit gold-standard scores in the past, she did enter the tournament with confidence. But her confidence took a hit as she had failed to get a quota place in both the individual events she took part in (10m air pistol and 25m pistol).
Before the 10m air pistol debacle (she finished 14th in the qualifiers), she had fallen just short in the 25m pistol event. The Haryana girl had finished fifth in the finals on Sunday. Those misses had dented her trust.
But fate smiled on her on Wednesday, the final day of competitions. The 2018 Youth Olympics gold medallist was part of the 10m air pistol mixed team event along with Saurabh Chaudhary. Even if there were no quotas on the line, it had become an important meet for Bhaker. It gave her a chance to show what she could do.
And she could not have hoped for a better partner than Chaudhary, who has been the standout performer. The man who believes in less talk and more action.
“I have a very good understanding with him. He never loses hope and is always positive.” Bhaker later said, while trying to explain Chaudhary’s influence.
With the 16-year-old alongside her, she slowly found her lost touch. The duo were unstoppable during the qualification stage, accumulating 778, equalling the qualification world record in the process. It was like a soothing balm for Manu. But the job was far from complete.
In the final, the story was no different. After a decent start, the duo took control of the affair and never looked back, winning it comfortably in the end. She was visibly happy. “It’s a big satisfaction,” she stated, when one reporter asked if it was a big relief. China’s Ranxin Jiang and Bowen Zhang finished second ahead of Korea’s Kim Bomi and Han Seungwoo.
More importantly, this morale-boosting win has given her fresh impetus and it could spur her to put up a better show in the upcoming events. “I could not do well earlier. It was not because there was lack of effort from my end. Now that we have won gold, this gives me hope that I can do even better next time around. I will work even harder.”
One should remember that Manu, who picked up the sport in 2016, is just 17. She did have home advantage but most athletes will uphold that home advantage does not guarantee success. With the quotas at stake and cream of shooting to contend with, she did have a monumental task in front of her.
Nevertheless, she wants to take this journey as a lesson and is confident that she can bounce back and secure a quota soon. “There are quite a number of World Cups. I have a very good chance to qualify.”