The Karni Singh shooting range was shut at 4 PM. Some amateur shooters were leaving the complex but there was one prominent individual still practicing. 45 minutes after the scheduled closing time, her father apologised to the media for the waiting time. As the sun set, she finally came out. The dedication and passion shown by this individual, all of 16 years of age, has made her a sensation in the world of shooting. Manu Bhaker, the Queen Midas of shooting, set the world shooting stage on fire in 2018 with her magnificent performances on debut. Thus, when asked about how she would look back at 2018, Manu answered with a tired but content smile. “Awesome”. This single word indeed sums up the career of this teenager born in Jhajjhar, Haryana.
Manu created history by winning gold in the 10m air pistol in the World Cup in Guadalajara, in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. However, she cites the only marquee event where she did not win a medal as her most memorable. “Actually, my most memorable is the Asian Games. Although I did not win a medal, I actually scored the volume of points which I have never achieved even in practice during qualification,” Manu said in an exclusive interview with News Nation.
Manu’s tally of 593 points in the qualifying score was the best-ever but she could not win a medal. Barring the blip in the Asian Games, the rest of the year went in just winning gold and in some rare cases, silver. “The Commonwealth Games remains special because I had scored and performed well. Youth Olympics is extra special because you can participate only once in your life and I won gold. I was the flag bearer also. World Cup was great because it was my debut in a senior event. In both the events, I had secured medals. I made plenty of friends in the Junior World Cup and you get a chance to win many medals. I hold all of the events memorable,” Manu said.
Making country proud immense
Manu is among the latest crop of women athletes who are displaying their brilliance on the world stage. Be it PV Sindhu, Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, Swapna Barman, Hima Das, Heena Sidhu or Manika Batra, India’s women athletes have given the country plenty of cheer. Manu believes the increased level of intensity and competition has spurned a healthy environment where they want to do well.
“In present times, all Indian sportspersons are trying their level best to put in their best performances. Everyone is training hard andthey are coming up rapidly. The competition in India has increased,” the youngster said.
Shooting in India has witnessed resurgence with Manu’s generation along with the next generation bringing plenty of laurels for the country. The youngster stressed that shooting in India can only go upwards. “In India, shooters are competitive and that competitive feeling, where they say, ‘Yes, I will shoot better than the other individual’ is present. The determination to give laurels to the country is immense. India will have a brighter future in shooting,” Manu said.
Teenage message for youth
Manu has won medals in Tennis, Boxing, Skating, Huyen Langlong (Manipuri Martial Arts), but shooting was the game which adhered to her. The reason is simple for the youngster. “I started shooting because I realised that there is immense scope in this field. It is a clear game with no scope of cheating. Other sports, for example, boxing involves some dodgy decisions. I must point out though, I did start my career in boxing. I still love to play tennis and skating is my hobby,” Manu said.
In the modern era, Manu reiterates the same message for success with maturity and grace. “If you work hard, you will get what you deserve. It is not like, 'mehnat karoge toh nahin milega’,” Manu said, with determination evident in her eyes.