Updated: July 28, 2021 7:48:44 am
The street leading to teen shooter Manu Bhaker’s home in Charkhi Dadri, Haryana wore a deserted look on Tuesday morning. No press OB vans, photographers or nosy reporters were in the vicinity of “Bhaker Bhawan” in anticipation of an Olympic medal in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed team event. As it turned out, Manu and her teammate Saurabh Chaudhary could not even qualify for the medal rounds.
With Manu’s father’s mobile phone switched off since Monday evening, smiling faces weren’t expected on an uninvited visit just minutes after the debacle. But Manu’s mother Sumedha opened the doors with a bright smile. “We are so glad that at least one person had hoped Manu would win today and came all the way to visit us. Magar ab kya likhoge (But what will you write now)?” Sumedha said with a touch of sarcasm.
Manu’s parents haven’t been able to get any sleep over the last few days and the exhaustion shows in their eyes. Expectations were high from Manu and Saurabh coming into the Olympics after a series of World Cup gold medals under their belt. “We have been tossing and turning in our beds since the last few days and sometimes even forget to have our meals. For us, it’s not medals but the happiness of our daughter that matters. We never speak about medals at home,” says Sumedha.
The 19-year-old shooting star has had a painful campaign in Tokyo so far. Her debut Olympics started with a technical snag two days ago in the 10m air pistol event, where she finished 12th in the qualification round.
“She called us up and explained the glitch with her pistol. She was obviously very disturbed but told us, ‘it was just bad luck that day and misfortune doesn’t last forever and I will definitely win an Olympic medal’. I thought that medal would come today but who knew I would have to wait longer,” says father Ram Kishan Bhaker.
All is not over for the teenager in Tokyo, though, feels Ram Kishan, who is willing to put his money on Manu in the 25m air pistol event. “Her competition is not over yet and she is very strong in 25m.”
Irrespective of the outcome of Manu’s next event, the family will take a break and head to its native village Goria in Jhajjar district of Haryana. Ram Kishan wants his daughter to spend some time with her cousins. The shooting qualification rounds on Tuesday were not broadcast on TV, but Sumedha would have not switched on the television even if it was on air. The pressure is unbearable, she admits. “I just wait for people to call to congratulate me and that is how I get to know my daughter’s results. But today it wasn’t the case,” she says.
No pressure at home
Whenever Manu returns from any competition, sports is not discussed for a few days. And it won’t be any different this time. “We never ask her anything whenever she returns from competition. She takes a few days to unwind and then open up. She then tells us every minute detail,” says Ram Kishan.
There has been strong criticism, some a touch harsh, on social media for India’s young guns, including Manu, but the Bhaker family couldn’t care less.
“Everyone keeps asking about only one thing, medals. But I am concerned if she has eaten her meals on time or if she’s taking good care of herself. I am a mother and my bond with Manu is not affected by her achievements or failures on the range,” says Sumedha, ensuring one had enough to write.
But one last task remained. A request for a photograph was happily fulfilled by Manu’s parents. “The way I am smiling for the picture, some people are going to ask if our daughter has won a medal. We should never lose hope and Manu will get that gold sooner or later.”
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