The stage is getting bigger and the expectations are going higher but Indian shooting sensation Manu Bhaker is grounded as she gears up for another test of her 16-year-old mind and body in next month’s Asian Games.
“I want to do well in those events (Asian Games followed by World Championships) but, frankly speaking, I am mainly thinking about competing in the next competition and not about medals. Pressure is there, but it’s there everywhere,” the shooter from Jhajjar, Haryana told PTI as she calmly spoke about the challenges that lie ahead.
Bhaker is also least affected by the controversies surrounding her selection in three events for the Asian Games, scheduled to be held in Jakarta and Palembeng from August 18.
After taking the shooting world by storm with a plethora of medals, including innumerable gold in top international events, the 16-year-old will next compete in 10m air pistol, 25m sports pistol and mixed air pistol at the Asian Games.
In fact, her international gold medal count stands at an astonishing 10, a massive achievement for a teenager.
Ignored for the Asiad mixed team air pistol event, the seasoned Heena Sidhu had hit out at the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and, in a thinly-veiled reference to the Haryana girl, said the federation was bending rules to favour the favourites.
One of the “favourites” is understood to be Bhaker, who remains unperturbed. “Main sirf khelne se matlab rakhti hoon, bas (I am only concerned about my shooting). I am fine if I am picked in three events, if they select me for one event I am fine and if I am not picked for one, then also I am ok,” Bhaker said.
Bhaker’s inclusion reportedly pushed Sidhu to No.2 in the 10m air pistol event and No.3 in 25m sports pistol, from No.1 in the 10m air pistol and No.2 in 25m pistol. “I can’t think about selection. I don’t allow all these things to weigh me down,” she added.
When she claimed the individual gold medal in her maiden senior World Cup appearance in Mexico earlier this year, Bhaker became the youngest Indian shooter to finish top of the podium in these events.
Living up to the billing, she did something similar at the ensuing Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. The expectations will understandably be high as she gears up to compete in the upcoming tournaments.
“In recent times I have worked a lot on the technical aspect. Good preparations, I can say. Tried to improve my scores, but you can’t shoot well all the time.”
Asked if she is better off technically right now compared to the days leading to the Commonwealth Games, Bhaker responded in the positive.
Ominous signs for her opponents, though she is aware that technique alone won’t fetch her a medal in a sport that is so much about the mental aspect as well.
“My body is recovering now after months of training and competition. I will be off to Bhopal for a junior camp on August 1, having just come back from a senior camp.”
The Asiad will be followed by the ISSF World Championships, which will be the first quota event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The prestigious event is scheduled from August 31 in South Korea.
Extending her golden run, Bhaker recently won her ninth international medal in one year, at the Meeting of the Shooting Hopes, a prestigious junior tournament in Pilsen, Czech Republic.