Manu Bhaker’s Swiss gun manufacturer Morini and Indian shooting coach Ronak Pandit have reignited the debate over the alleged gun malfunction Bhaker faced during her Olympic 10m air pistol qualification event. The 19-year-old was forced into a 17-minute delay and eventually failed to make the finals at the Asaka Shooting Range.
During the qualification stage, Bhaker’s gun malfunctioned after the 16th shot. At that point the teenager had another 44 shots left to take in the next 55 minutes. The forced break due to the repair-work eventually meant she’d have to complete the qualification round in 38 minutes.
Bhaker was in fourth position at the time the malfunction happened — the top eight make it to the finals. By the time she finished the second series of 10 shots, most of her competitors were well into their fourth series — there are six series, or 60 shots in the qualification round. Olympic rules do not compensate for lost time in such a scenario.
Bhaker could have either chosen to use her backup pistol, which was made by the same manufacturer, or she could have opted to repair the pistol. There were a few more options available if she chose to repair the pistol, which is what led to the latest arguments.
According to Morini, the Indian camp could have brought the gun outside the range, where they had set up a repair station. The company put up a post on Facebook, saying, “Morini technical repair place at the Tokyo Olympic games. For people that don’t know where we are, we are at the left of the weapon deposit office.”
According to Pandit though, this was not a viable option. He later uploaded a detailed video claiming that there was quite a distance between the range and repair station which would have resulted in more time lost.
According to Morini, the repair would have been done much faster if the gun was brought to them. In a Facebook post, Francesco Repich from Morini said they had spoken to the Indonesian judge who had presided over the event. According to that judge, the pistol had “slightly loosened the charge screw” and the Indian coach took 10 minutes to fix the issue, when more qualified people could have taken lesser time. Repich also wrote the Indian team refused to take any sighting shots to check the pistol afterwards.
Pandit subsequently shot a video and uploaded it on his Facebook page, discussing three crucial aspects of the incident. Firstly, the distance from lane 52, where Bhaker was shooting from, was a brisk walk away from the door that led outside the hall. Past that, there was another short walk to where the Morini repair stall had been set up.
Pandit’s second issue was what condition the athlete would have been left in should she have decided to get the gun repaired by the manufacturer.
“You think her heart rate would have been stable after walking so much to get the gun repaired. Which idiot is saying that?” Pandit said on his Facebook video.
Thirdly, Pandit, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, clarified why Bhaker didn’t use the reserve pistol that she had for the event. “As for the spare pistol, her previous coach had changed the grip of that pistol, she was not comfortable with it and that is why she stuck to the one which malfunctioned,” he added.
Bhaker’s gun malfunction is just one event in a so far underwhelming campaign. But it did lay bare the friction that was already going on behind the scene.
National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh stated that the coaching positions will be reviewed after the end of the 10m individual events. Rumours of rifts with junior national pistol coach Jaspal Rana have floated about and have now been confirmed by Singh himself.
Bhaker and Rana were unable to work together and attempts to mend their professional relationship were made twice, Singh explained to reporters in Tokyo. Those attempts failed.
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