Four-time Asian Games gold medallist shooter Jaspal Rana says “too much” is being expected from teenage prodigies like Manu Bhaker and Anish Bhanwala and they can surely do without the “unwanted” attention ahead of the Asian Games. Bhaker is 16 and Bhanwala 15. They both hogged the limelight at the Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the 10m air pistol and 25m rapid fire pistol respectively.
While Bhanwala is training with the senior squad, Bhaker is in Bhopal with India’s junior national coach Rana. “Everyone is expecting too much from these kids. There is too much focus on them when it should be on the seniors. They are like any other 15-16 year olds. They are on social media and are bound to get affected by this kind of attention,” an angry Rana told PTI.
“I am not saying that they cannot win medals at Asiad. But you have to remember that competition at Commonwealth Games is a lot easier than Asian Games. We have to deal with the Chinese in Asiad and they don’t like losing,” said the 42-year-old. Rana, who is among the only four Indian shooters to have won a gold at Asiad. The other three are Randhir Singh, Jitu Rai and Ronjan Sodhi.
Rana feels the bench strength at the junior level is strong but it is not the case at the senior level. “Seniors should not depend on juniors. If we have 15-20 shooters of the same level in juniors, we should have the same quality at the highest level. These kids should be kept out of the limelight. I see them attending so many functions. That is the last they need at this stage,” warned Rana.
Sixteen-year-old Saurabh Choudhary is another teenager in the pistol squad, having earned his spot ahead of established shooters like Jitu Rai.
“These young guns are a rare talent but they are not yet ready for the highest level. They have won gold medals in Junior World Cup but their scores are not enough for even a bronze at the senior level. “They should be given ample time to hone their skills. CWG and Asian Games are important but your preparation has to be from Olympics to Olympics.”
Both Bhanwala and Bhaker became the toast of the nation after the CWG success with Haryana government announcing a hefty cash reward. “More than the money, they need proper planning. What events to play in and what to miss out. That will help them more in the long run. At their age, they don’t know what to do with the money,” Rana added.
Bhanwala, on his part, is confident ahead of his maiden Asian Games. Post the Gold Coast high, he played in the Senior World Cup in Korea but did not make the final.
“The training has been good. There has been enough competition ahead of the Asian Games. Junior World Cup scores were good and that has given me a lot of confidence.
“I have not studied the other shooters much as we keep seeing them in other tournaments. I can’t say about the medal chances. Will try to reach the final first and then take it from there,” said Bhanwala.
Bhanwala had to sit for his 10th board exams at a later date owing to his shooting commitment earlier this year. Shooting is taking most of his time these days, he said.
“There is not much time to relax or do anything else. It is all about shooting right now,” added the teenager. Shooting at the Asian Games will be held at the Jakabaring International Shooting Range in Palembang, Indonesia from August 18 to 27.