Manu Bhaker 'heartbreaking' departure from Tokyo Olympics
Manu Bhaker's last attempt at earning a medal at Tokyo Olympics goes in vain as she fails to qualify in the finals of the Women's 25m Air Pistol event.
Before the Olympics could even start, shooter Manu Bhaker was deemed as one of India's most promising athletes, striding into Tokyo Olympics. Bhaker became the first Indian woman shooter competing in three different events at the same edition of the Olympics. It was, by all means, a big onus that rested on the shoulders of the 19-year-old.
Bhaker's career, laden with records and medals, saw her making a brilliant transition at the senior level. In 2018, Bhaker won a gold medal at ISSF World Cup held in Guadalajara and in the process, she became the youngest shooter from the country to do so.
She also won a gold medal at the same event in the mixed team 10m air pistol. Within a week after creating history in Guadalajara, Bhaker achieved another milestone as she won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the 10m air pistol women's single event. Additionally, she also set a CWG record of 240.9 points at Gold Coast. Besides, every time she competed in the mixed events of the World Cup with Saurabh Chaudhary, she won a medal.
Despite all the success she has managed to achieve, Bhaker has failed to live up to any of her expectations at the Tokyo Olympics. Not only a medal, but she also could not make her entry into any of the finals of the three events she took part in.
Bhaker started off her campaign in Tokyo in the 10m women's pistol event. A double malfunction of her pistol led her to wage a battle against time and crumbled under pressure shooting 8s, failing to qualify for the final. She sought redemption in the mixed 10m Air Pistol event pairing up with Saurabh Chaudhary. The duo finished in the below-par seventh position, just ahead of Australia, after showing promise in qualification stage 1, where they raked up the top spot.
While Chaudhary shot a 96 and an even better 98 in his two series, respectively, aggregating 194 out of 200 in total. Bhaker languished among 186 (92 and 94), which was the lowest among all the shooters in stage 2. Bhaker shot three 8s in stage 2 that had already hurt the duo's chances to progress even in the bronze medal match.
After plenty of criticism and talks around the Haryana-based shooter, Bhaker tried one last time to avenge her fallen glory. Taking part in the 25m Air Pistol event alongside Rahi Sarnobat, Bhaker showed flashes of her talent after a promising fifth-place finish in the precision stage. Bhaker was eyeing an entry into the final after a satisfactory finish in the rapid rounds. Bhaker shot a 96 in Series 1, which took her down to 9th place. She started series 2 with seven consecutive 10s. However, three 9s kept her just below the qualifying mark at 9th place. Despite eight 10s in Series 3, Bhaker shot a nine and a poor 8 to go out of contention of the finals. She raked up a total of 582. Bhaker was placed 11th after the completion of her round of relay. She further slid down and ended her campaign ranked 15th.
To lend a perspective to it, Bhaker's score of 582 today was an impressive display from the 19-year-old. A similar score would have made it to the Rio 2016 finals, but competition in Tokyo is way up the notch, where the last one to qualify in the final scored 584.
Former Olympian shooter Joydeep Karmakar, who had finished fourth in the finals of the London 2012 Games, in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, said, "Manu tried better than her other two performances and scored an impressive 582. I won't say her score was bad, but then again, the competition has moved to another level in Tokyo. She is capable of shooting way higher. If you see, she raked up a score of 588 in the ISSF World Cup in Croatia. It was heartbreaking to see Bhaker trailing from just two points to reach the final today."
Sarnobat, on the other hand, had shot a 591 in the Croatia World Cup final, from which she hit a massive dip to 573 and finished in the 32nd spot. Indian shooters' outing at Tokyo continues to falter as so far, only one shooter - Saurabh Chaudhary - has been able to make it to the finals. He finished seventh in the men's 10m air pistol event