Legendary pistol marksman and multiple Asian Games gold medallist Jaspal Rana confirmed on Friday that he is back as coach of one of India's best shooters Manu Bhaker, nearly two years after a split that hogged the headlines for days.
Manu, the winner of several gold medals at World Cups, silver medallist at the World Championships, and champion at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, had parted ways with Rana because of reported irreconcilable differences in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Manu's split with Rana was attributed as the main reason for her forgettable performance in Tokyo, where she also suffered a pistol malfunction that almost left her in tears.
Manu's downfall coincided with her split with Rana.
"Yes, I will be pairing (up) with Manu Bhaker and (will) train her. It's confirmed. It's between me and Manu; I don't need any permission from anyone for that. I will be coaching just Manu and not the entire Indian pistol team. I'll be her coach," Jaspal told PTI.
"It is a long-term commitment. I will need to bring the champion out of her. Shooters like Manu Bhaker are technically sound normally, so I will focus a lot on the mental side of her game, apart from looking a bit into the technical aspect," he added.
On how did the patch-up come about, Rana indicated the initiative came from Manu's side.
"I think the credit goes to her. It (the talk was) between Manu and me; nobody else was involved in us deciding (to pair up again)," said Rana, who was the junior national coach before the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Rana said he had made it clear to Manu that this would be a fresh start to their association with the rancor of the past being forgotten.
"I told her very clearly that what had happened in the past had happened, and I don't give a damn about it. What is done is done; the damage is done. But now, there will be a mutual understanding, and there will be no talk about the past. We'll just talk about shooting and the professional way of doing things," he said.
Rana said he had not committed anything to Manu, and he has not guaranteed her medals at the Asian Games and World Championships, which is also a 2024 Pairs Olympics quota-winning event.
"I have started training her for the Asian Games (in Hangzhou) and World Championships. I have not committed anything," he said.
During the Tokyo Olympics, Ronak Pandit had gone as the pistol coach, and Manu was seeking guidance from him. Asked if Manu will also take guidance from Pandit, Rana said, "I have no idea about it or anyone."
Rana said he had started training Manu regularly and was also in Delhi coaching her during the national trials.
"We are on the phone almost every day now, and I was in Delhi between the (ongoing) trials. It's not that difficult (to train her) because I know everything about her (technique). In five days, I can train her at my academy in Dehradun, and for five days, I can go to Delhi for training.
"So, it should not take long (for her) to be on track. But since a lot of damage has been done mentally and technically (in the last two years) so, let's see. She's a champion, and she will come out of it," opined Rana.
"I've seen her shoot, and I've seen her doing things, and it makes me confident she will come out of it," said Rana of the 21-year-old Manu.
"The most important thing is whatever she is, that's a different story... but, yes, she is committed, and she is honest about moving forward for the coming competitions. I told her very clearly there would be no miracle or magic... that I come back and things would be on track."
"It will be a lot of hard work from her side and my side as well. And hopefully, if everything is positive from both sides, it will be much easier for us to move forward. Winning an Olympic quota is not that difficult for these guys, but getting to the podium there is very, very tough," added Rana.
Rana said he would not be accompanying Manu during international competitions as he was not part of the national coaching setup.
Only national coaches can travel with the Indian squads.
"I will not be accompanying her for events. Most of the training, for now, will be in India. I can't travel with her to any competition. In what capacity will I travel?" asked Rana.
On whether he expects a call-up from the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) to become part of their coaching setup, Rana said, "I don't know. They had interviewed me, but I am still waiting for a reply. The interview happened just after the Tokyo Olympics, but they never reverted," he added.