She returned empty-handed from the Asian Games but Manu Bhaker Sunday said she delivered a career-best performance in Palembang with the record-shattering qualifying score of 593 in 25m pistol event. Considered the most promising among India’s Gen-Next shooter, Bhaker won gold and silver in 10m air pistol individual and mixed event at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires recently, overcoming the Asiad disappointment. Asked how difficult it was to shrug off the Asiad show before Youth Olympics, Bhaker told PTI: “On the contrary, I would say Asian Games served as a huge morale-booster. I shot 593 in 25m pistol event (qualifying) which I believe is my best performance till date. A score like 593 doesn’t happen every day.
“I don’t think I ever shot better than that qualifying round. Yes, I missed out on a medal but that 593 is like a benchmark for me. When I need inspiration, that performance serves as a morale-booster,” 16-year-old said at the sidelines of the IOA felicitation function for the Youth Olympics medallists. For someone, who is already a young achiever, the schoolgirl in Bhaker came to the fore when she requested one interviewer not to ask questions on dedication.
“Please don’t ask whom do I want to dedicate my Youth Olympics medal,” she said with a smile. Bhaker rates her Youth Olympic medal as one of the major highs of her career considering the level of competition. “It feels fantastic to win gold for India. To see the tri-colour flying itself is a matter of pride. Each and every competition has helped me evolve as a shooter,” said the reigning Commonwealth Games champion in 10m air pistol event.
“This is my debut year in international events and I am only gaining experience. But I still want to remain a kid,” said Bhaker. The youngster said she shares a great rapport with other young shooters like Saurabh Chaudhary. “I share a good rapport with everyone. They are all co-operative, well behaved. There is never any pressure,” she said. Like a pro, she sidestepped queries on the competition with senior shooters like Heena Sidhu.
“Heena di is a great competitor. But I need to focus on my game.” Her next assignment is the Asian Airgun Championship but the event might not be held. “Next competition is Asian Airgun Championship but if it doesn’t happen I will be taking part in the Senior Nationals.”
There will be a camp in Delhi and Bhaker will be focussing on physical endurance. “We will be staying at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium and I will also be focussing on gym work apart from regular practice,” she signed off.