Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary teamed up for the first time at the New Delhi ISSF World Cup in January 2019. The pair couldn’t be more different from each other because while Manu is talkative and always has an answer to every question, Saurabh prefers to stay within himself. As it turns out, these differences hardly matter. The two 17-year-olds have dominated mixed team 10m air pistol this year winning gold at all the four World Cups, the latest of which was on September 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

According to Manu, the fact that the pair hardly interact actually helps them in their endeavours.

“We are completely different personalities. We don’t talk much and are not really connected,” Manu told IANS. “Because of that, we stay focussed on our individual games than on each other. I think that helps us to maintain our scores.”

Winning gold in Rio was quite an effort for the teenaged pair. “Epic” was the word that Manu used to describe it. They managed to pip compatriots Yashaswini Deswal and Abhishek Verma 17-15, despite trailing them by a margin of six for most of the final.

Manu said that the duo just concentrated on consistently hitting the target.

“It was unexpected because they were leading by a huge margin. We just stopped expecting anything and then shot by shot, we started covering up the distance. Suddenly the announcer said that we have won it, so that was epic!” Manu said.

She said that the fact that they were trailing by such a big margin turned out to be helpful in hindsight. “I don’t know about Saurabh, but I was feeling some pressure. I was just thinking, whatever happens, I’ll just try my best,” she said.

“A medal is always better than nothing. My performance was very good throughout the year. Many a times I missed medals by just one or two points but it’s ok. It’s all part of the process.”

Her success with Saurabh means that the pair is now one of India’s brightest prospects to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but Manu said that she is not looking so far ahead. “I just focus on the very next event, which is the Asian Championships. I am not aiming for the Olympics directly, it is just a part of the process,” she said.