Why I am supporting Manu Bhaker at the Tokyo Olympics
Youth Olympics gold medalist, World Cup champion, World record holder, now Manu Bhaker has her eyes straight on that Tokyo Olympics medal
The very first image that pops up in my mind when someone talks about Manu is her podium finish pictures, they are endless. Manu Bhaker a name that has been used parallelly with Indian shooting for the past few years.
The 19-year-old shooter has been so consistent, when she enters the range she is the favorite to win despite whoever her counterpart might be. When Manu Bhaker is shooting in the finals, it is a delight to watch her play.
The way she picks up her pistol, taking a deep breath, aiming her sight, taking the first, then second, and the third pull we know she is going to hit the 10s. Being a 10m air pistol shooter I might be biased, but no one can deny that if anybody deserves to win the Olympic medal, it is Manu Bhaker.
The day I met Manu Bhaker before she wrote history
I saw Manu Bhaker for the first time in the 2017 National Shooting Championship in Kerala. Back then Manu stayed in the same hotel as me and my team. During the morning, all the shooters and their acquaintances assembled in the breakfast hall. Most of the people in the hotel were from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, the powerhouses of shooting in India.
The breakfast hall as I entered, that's when I saw Haryana's shooter, Manu Bhaker, with her mother. Back then it was a normal match day morning for some of us, including Manu, but by the end of the day, she was a star.
My friend and fellow shooter had a match on the same day as Manu, they even traveled in the same bus to the shooting range. When the budding shooter broke Heena Sidhu's record, it shocked everyone at the National Championship. To date me and my friend talk about how we met the shooting star Manu Bhaker the day she made history.
The journey from Haryana to Tokyo
The teenage shooter has always been a sports enthusiast in her life. Experimental Manu tried her hands on many sports but finally excelled in shooting. Bhaker's family has been a pillar of strength for the young shooter, as her father Ramkishan Bhaker has stood by Manu in every step of her career.
After a splendid performance at the National championship in 2017, Manu made it to the Indian shooting team. Her moment of spotlight came in the 2018 ISSF World Cup when the youngster defeated champion, Alejandra Zavala. She became the youngest Indian just 16 years old to clinch a gold medal at the world cup. From there, Manu's performance graph has always been in the upward direction.
From ISSF Junior World cup to senior ISSF World Cup and Youth Olympics, Manu has reached the podium at every international championship she has competed. Shooting being a mental sport, Manu's constant top performances fascinate me. There aren't many shooters who can perform so well at every match they compete in.
2018, 2019, 2021 every year Manu has reached the top, even if she missed the medal in some she was always competing in the finals.
19-year-old Manu was selected in the 10m air pistol women after her insanely consistent performances, but there was more for the Indian shooting star. She was also selected in the 25m pistol women. Alongside Saurabh Chaudhary, Bhaker will also compete in the 10m air pistol mixed team. We can surely call her the all-rounder in the pistol event, as she will compete in three events.
Manu Bhaker and her Mental strength-key to her success
There is no doubt in the fact that Manu is the favorite Indian shooter to clinch a gold medal at Tokyo Olympics. The expectations from Bhaker are sky-high. But, that is the case at every International championship she competes in. Notably, she has never let down the expectations of the nation.
Watching Manu Bhaker compete is a pure sight of excellence. Bhaker calls herself a competitive person and you can see that in her matches. She gives the best expressions during the match which just makes the viewer feel exactly what she is going through.
During the 10m air pistol matches one can't take eyes off from Manu Bhaker. It is not like she doesn't make mistakes, but the way she makes a comeback every time is just so inspiring. Manu has proven at every competition that when India, needs it the most Manu brings her A-game in and she makes the country proud.
19 year old is currently ranked at the world second position in 10m air pistol and 25m sports pistol event. Interestingly, she has also been in the top 5 rankings for a very long time. Manu has defeated Olympic medalists Anna Korakaki, Vitalina Batsarashkina and the list goes on.
Arjuna award winner, Youth Olympics gold medalist, world champion, world record holder, BBC Emerging player of the year award 2021, the only thing that seems to be missing is that shining Olympic medal.
The amount of fame and success she has reached at a young age, she is the upcoming Mahendra Singh Dhoni of shooting. I can imagine shooting fans saying during the Olympics " Manu marr rahi hai" just the way cricket fans used to say for Dhoni " Mahi marr raha hai". She has the capability and potential to beat anyone with her terrific scores. Manu might even surprise us with more than one medal.
I want Manu to win the Olympic medal so that the entire world can know that India has produced some sensational shooters at a very young age and the country finally becomes the powerhouse in shooting.