“This was supposed to be my Olympic debut, the biggest honour for any sportsperson in the world. The postponement is disheartening but it was absolutely necessary,’’ says India’s ace shooter Manu Bhaker.
The eloquent 18-year-old, who is quarantining with her family in Haryana’s Jhajjar, says that 2019 had been a tough year for her on the professional front, in spite of winning a lot of competitions. Shooting is an increasingly competitive sport, and Manu almost lost her chance to qualify for Olympics 2020 due to an equipment malfunction in Munich in the 25m Air Pistol category, which she had originally aimed for. She recalls, “My pistol did not fire. I later spoke to the manufacturers who said the odds of that happening were one in a million.’’ Thankfully, the very next day Bhaker gathered herself to shoot down an Olympic quota in the women’s 10m Air Pistol category.
The games have been postponed until 2021, but Bhaker — a name to reckon in the international shooting scene — isn’t perturbed by her form. She claims to be at ease, surrounded by her family during the lockdown. Her training for the Olympics is going on as originally planned, and the shooting prodigy is working on both her physical form and mental fitness. ‘’I’m relaxed at home and not trying to think about the previous games but focussing on preparing myself to the best of my abilities. I have always loved playing sports; this is how I was introduced to shooting, which I later took up professionally. I incorporate exercises and yoga in my daily fitness routine. I also believe in meditation; it helps me stay calm and composed,’’ she adds.
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Bhaker is utilising the lockdown to go back to old hobbies, and shares, ‘’In shooting, we have a lot of competitions back to back, so I’m using this time to take a breather. I like listening to music and I love to paint. I also try and read whenever I get free time, and prefer watching TV to being on the phone all the time.’’
Covid-19 and the forced leave has not been able to dampen Bhaker’s spirit, who is training every day. ‘’During the 2018 Commonwealth Games, my father converted a gallery in our house in Jhajjar into a single lane shooting range. I’m now training here everyday. I also recently received training equipment from Sports Authority of India,’’ she adds.
Currently ranked number 2 in ISSF women’s 10m Air Pistol, Bhaker is also conscious of being perceived as a role model by many. She recently posted a video on Twitter urging the public to stay at home and abide by social distancing to help the country in the fight against coronavirus. With her maiden Olympics pushed a little far, the young gun is only hoping for the best. ‘’Whatever happens, happens for the best. No honour would be greater than winning an Olympic medal for India, and I hope the event doesn’t get cancelled.’’
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