Manu Bhaker's performance graph is going upwards since Tokyo Olympics: Father Ram Bhaker
Manu Bhaker's father Ram Kishan Bhaker throws light on his daughter's recent performance in an exclusive chat with The Bridge.
Indian shooters were on a winning spree in the recently concluded ISSF Junior Shooting World Championship in Lima, Peru. India finished at the top of medals tally with a whopping 30 medals. India's rich medal haul in the competition is an indication that most of the shooters are hitting the bull's eye in various events they are participating in and one such top performer is Jhajjar born sensation Manu Bhaker.
The 19-year-old has bagged a staggering 5 medals, including 4 gold medals and 1 bronze. Her performance is a clear indication of her getting back in the groove which was missing during the Tokyo Olympics. Manu Bhaker's father, Mr Ram Kishan Bhaker, always keeps a close eye on her daughter's performance as well as her training and her preparation before participating in any big or small tournament. Ram Kishan Bhaker spoke exclusively to The Bridge about his daughter's near-perfect performance at the ISSF Junior World Championship.
"Manu participated in five events and won medals in all five then who will not be happy. I believe that the entire country is happy with her performance and her confidence level is coming back to where it was earlier. After the Olympics, it looked like her confidence level was waning. All these are great indications for Indian shooting. Someone has to lead the team and if you get that opportunity then it is great for you," said the senior Bhaker.
Manu Bhaker's performance over the years has been of the highest quality winning numerous medals in World Cups, World Championships, Commonwealth Games etc. This time too it was no different as she won gold in 4 out of 5 competitions she participated in while settling for a bronze in 25m Pistol, which saw a closely contested battle and she lost the gold medal to her 14-year-old compatriot Naamya Kapoor.
"Yes, definitely I was watching 25 M Air Pistol. In 7th position, Manu's performance in one of the series was not good. To make a comeback from there she came back to 6th position, then 5th position after that 4th and 3rd. What was amazing in the shootout for 2nd and 3rd was that there were four rounds of shootout which was also very good. She missed out narrowly in the end. Many times it seemed that this time it is for sure that India will win both gold and silver but many times you do not get what you expect but it was a great performance. She performed well at the world championship which takes place once in four years and winning a medal in it is important even though it is a junior-level competition. The World Championship is a prestigious event. Many people said that China is not participating but they did not because their National Games are being played right now. But I think that this kind of score even when China would have played then also India would have got the same number of medals which they are bagging," said Ram Kishan Bhaker.
Manu Bhaker's father and her entire family have stood with her in her heydays as well as her challenging times. After 19-year-old's below-par performance in the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, where she failed to make it to the finals of any of the events she participated as well as having a gun malfunction during the middle of the qualification round of 10 Meter Air Pistol, her family took her out for a much-needed break in order to unwind, refresh and rejuvenate which is now paying dividends.
"Manu was very upset with her performance in the Tokyo Olympics. If you see in the mixed team event and in 25 Air Pistol she enjoys the most as I had told you. In 25 M Air Pistol, her qualification score is always very good. In Asian Games 2018 she scored 593. In the World Cup, her score was 590 in qualification. So, she was very happy with her performance but the same performance did not happen in the Olympics. She scored 582 in qualification which is a good score but we cannot call it a competitive score for qualifying for the Olympics final. This time she scored 587 which was a very good score despite her state of mind which was not good after her performance in the Tokyo Olympics. After that, she took a long break from shooting. We went out of town for 25 to 30 days and we did not think about the game at all. After returning we went back to scratch starting from zero, forget whatever has happened in the Olympics and start everything afresh. There were some flaws in her game," he explained.
Manu Bhaker's superlative performance has once again raised the expectations of the country for future competitions which also includes Paris Olympics in 2024 and before that she will be competing in a lot of tournaments and competitions as according to her father her performance is getting back to where it was a few seasons ago.
"I am very happy. The entire country is happy with Manu's performance. The score was very good and in the final also, her score was decent. It was a commanding performance. Her performance was better than the other two girls of the team event. It was a very satisfying performance. Manu's confidence will also return because after scoring 582 in Tokyo Olympics in 25 M Air Pistol she could not qualify for the final. This time the score was 587. Therefore, it shows that her performance graph is going upwards. And I am getting all the messages and calls from everywhere; I would like to thank them all from your platform," said the father.
A win gives confidence to a sportsperson while a defeat teaches a lesson and areas to work on and that is what Manu Bhaker can gain from Tokyo Olympics debacle as the next Olympics is not too far away. Unlike the normal 4 years gap, this upcoming Olympics will return within the space of 3 years giving these young shooters another opportunity to do what the likes of Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang and Vijay Kumar did for the country.
"Every sportsperson goes through ups and downs in life and it will be unfair to say that in the Olympics there was anything lacking. It is about handling the pressure in every competition but in the Olympics it is different. It is a mega event. So, it is more. We can only say that there will be a lot of pressure. The kind of pressure which was there was different. It was not that the young shooters over there were less experienced. They had all played and won medals before. In this way, they have gained the experience and they are back in their line of fire in their zone of performing."
For Manu Bhaker the competition will get tougher from now onwards as there are new talents coming in women's pistol shooting. The young names which are making their presence felt are 14-year-old Naamya Kapoor, Rhythm Sangwan who competed with her as well as against her in the Junior World Championship and won medals.
"Definitely, it is a great thing. If the level of the competition is high then be it senior level or junior level the shooters will be aware that wherever you are performing the level of the performance is very high. Therefore, you need to work harder. If you talk about these two girls Rhythm and Naamya then they too have performed well. This is amazing for Indian shooting that there is a very talented bench strength that is coming up. The shooters who take things for granted will not be able to do so," Ram Kishan Bhaker opined.
According to Ram Kishan Bhaker, who keeps a constant eye on her preparation before every big or small competition, is also not too much worried about the younger talented lot which is coming up as she prepares for every competition in the same way be it Junior competitions, senior competitions, World Cups or Olympics.
"Manu takes every competition very seriously, be it senior level or junior level. A school competition, district competition or state level or every competition for her is a new competition. For every competition, her preparation is the same. It is not that for the Olympics she is doing a different kind of preparation. She is very straight forward whatever she has to play she will play her heart out with full enjoyment and will play for the country. She plays to win medals for the country. Earlier 4-5 years ago the situation was different. A shooter bagging an Olympic quota was enough but nowadays every shooter wants to win a medal in any competition they are playing be it World Championship, World Cup, Asian Games, Olympics or commonwealth. And if you look at shooting which I always see and observe there are many shooters who can change the course of the game at any moment," Bhaker said about her daughter's preparation and approach.
Manu Bhaker's rich medal haul in ISSF Junior World Championship is an indication that the multiple gold medal winner in World Cups is back in form and staggering performance will give her confidence the much-needed boost after the Tokyo Olympics debacle. But she will now probably have to be more competitive as there are more talented youngsters like Naamya Kapoor and Rhythm Sangwan coming up giving them tough but healthy competition. All these are progressive signs for the Indian shooting.