Why are Saurabh Chaudhury & Manu Bhaker India's biggest hopes for a gold medal at Tokyo Olympics?
Even though a lot of Indian shooters are expected to reach Tokyo as some of the top-ranked shooters in both the Tokyo 2020 Rankings and the 2021 World Rankings, the biggest medal prospect for India seems to be the pair of Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event.
Shooting has, time and again, been termed as India's best bet to pump up their medal tally at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In fact, Gracenote – a statistical subsidiary of the popular Nielsen Holdings, had predicted India to win a total of eight medals in shooting at Tokyo.
While it is of no doubt that the 15 member shooting squad will be India's strongest suit when they enter the Olympics, the question remains as to whether the shooters will perform to the best of their abilities or will they crumble under the pressure of expectations?
Even though a lot of Indian shooters are expected to reach Tokyo as some of the top-ranked shooters in both the Tokyo 2020 Rankings and the 2021 World Rankings, the biggest medal prospect for India seems to be the pair of Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event. Why?
Well, first things first, the individual abilities of Saurabh and Manu have never been in question. Both of them have repeatedly proven themselves at the highest level and have won multiple international medals in their bag.
Although they will surely be medal contenders in their individual events, their chances of a podium finish seem to increase when they pair up for the 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team event.
The team events in shooting are a new addition to the Olympics this time around, and India might just start the event on a very successful note.
This is mainly because of how well the pair of Saurabh and Manu have played together over the past few years. Having joined hands for the first time in the year 2019, the duo has gone on to win five gold medals in each of the five tournaments they have competed in.
While their first medal together came at the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in February 2019, the duo then went on to win three more World Cup gold medals that year – Beijing in April 2019, Munich in May 2019, Rio in August 2019. The last of their five medals came during the recently concluded ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in March 2021.
In fact, the only tournament the duo did not compete together as a pair was the 2019 ISSF World Cup Finals in China, wherein Manu had paired with Russian Artem Chernousov to win the gold, while Saurabh, along with Olympic Champion Anna Korakaki, settled for a silver.
Not only have Saurabh and Manu won medals together, but the duo has jointly set some World Records as well. While they equalled the World Record score of 483.4 en route in the final of their first-ever event together in New Delhi, they broke the qualification record with a score of 784 the following month in the Asian Airgun Championships in Chinese Taipei.
Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker are two of the world's best pistol shooters individually, and them teaming up for the mixed event means India can all but be sure of a podium finish from them at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.