Pistol sensation Manu Bhaker continued her terrific run of form, again claiming the individual as well as team gold medal, in the ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney.
Coming off a double gold in her maiden senior World Cup in Mexico recently, 16-year-old Manu clinched the individual gold medal after prevailing over Thailand’s Kanyakorn Hirunphoem in a thrilling final of the women’s 10m air pistol event.
Shooting happened to her by chance after a brush with contact sports and Manu Bhaker, a multifaceted pistol sensation eyeing global success at the tender age of 16, is also trying to leave behind her ‘intense love’ for pummeling opponents.
In her quest, Bhaker trains at the Universal Senior Secondary School in Jhajjar for four to five hours every day. For someone who took to shooting just a little over two years ago, breaking two long-standing national records in a span of less than a month would easily qualify as some achievement.
“Before shooting I was into boxing, thang-ta – Manipuri martial art. I really enjoy it,” she said.
She was not just participating there but also thriving, winning quite a few medals in thang-ta national championships, before boredom cut short her brush with contact sports.
After an eye injury during a boxing bout her mother decided that she had had enough of ‘fighting’.
“I have full faith in my daughter’s talent and ability. Mark my words she could be in the 2020 Olympics. Her life is more important than anything else, so I made her quit boxing and thang-ta,” her mother said.
Bhaker has already stamped her class in the tournaments she competed in, and is now focused on the upcoming events.
Asked about her inclination to break records, Bhaker brushed it off as happenstance. “It just happens. I don’t think about them. At times I don’t even know what the records are. I am grateful to all my coaches for their advice and the hours they have put in to hone my technique,” said Manu.
She also won gold in 10m air pistol event for girls in the recently-concluded Khelo India School Games. Manu didn’t just win the gold but also broke two junior national records inside an hour – first in qualifying and then followed it up with another record-breaking performance in the finals.
Besides boxing and thang-ta, she was also a state-level skating champion, was adept at tennis, swimming and won medals in athletics in school meets.
Bhaker’s tryst with shooting began when her father took her to the range and asked her to try her hand at the sport. She fired a few shots that found the centre of the target and the rest is history.