India’s teen sensation Manu Bhaker produced a spectacular performance to claim India’s first ever gold medal in shooting at the Youth Olympic Games on Tuesday.
The 16-year-old Bhaker shot 236.5 to finish on top of the podium in the women’s 10m air pistol event, making up for the heartbreak at the Asian Games in Indonesia and the World Championship where she could not live up to her billing.
Russia’s Iana Enina won the silver with 235.9, while Nino Khutsiberidze bagged the bronze medal.
Bhaker began the eight-woman final with a 10.0 and followed it up with a 10.1 and 10.4. She led the Stage 1 with 99.3 after a sequence that included seven scores of 10 and above.
Two 9.8 in the beginning of second stage (elimination) were followed by a 10.1 and 9.9, helping her maintain the lead over Thailand’s Kanyakorn Hirunphoem by some distance.
The World Cup and Commonwealth Games gold medallist extended her domination in the following shots and looked to be on course for the yellow metal. She slipped once to the second place but quickly regained the top position.
Meanwhile, Russian Iana Enina jumped to second with a 10.7. There was another 10.7 by Enina but she could not catch up with Bhaker.
Earlier, Bhaker topped the qualifying with 576, which included a series of 95, 96, 96, 96, 95, 98 and placed second and third in the qualification were Russia’s Enina Iana and Chinese Lu Kaiman with 569, the gulf in scores clearly highlighting the form the Indian was in.
Seeking to rediscover her habit of finishing on the podium after heartbreaks at the Asian Games and a none-too-impressive outing at the World Championships, Bhaker quickly got into the groove and showed her intent through the qualifying phase.
Having suffered the first significant loss of her young career in Indonesia after an astonishing run that made her one of India’s biggest prospects, Bhaker lived up to the billing in the Argentine capital, showing tremendous mental strength to achieve her goal.
Representing her country in the women’s 10m air pistol event, Bhaker has won medals at all major events she has participated barring the recent Asian Games.
At the 2017 Asian Junior Championships, she won a silver medal but at the 2018 ISSF World Cup held in Mexico, she returned with two gold medals. She won the women’s 10m air pistol and in the 10m Air Pistol mixed team events.
The girl from Jhajjar, Haryana followed that up with a gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.