It’s my dream to win medals for India in the Paris Olympics, says Manu Bhaker

Manu Bhaker
Manu Bhaker (Source: All India Sports/X)

For Manu Bhaker, shooting is almost like the hard, American boot camp which young military training recruits have to undergo. Discipline, slogging and trying to become the best, these are the goals set for the teenagers, boys and girls, in the United States of America. What is the comparison between the US Army process of literally putting the human through extreme conditions of hard mental and physical training, ask Manu Bhaker.

After the complex matrix of Olympics selection trials held for Paris 2024 in New Delhi and Bhopal, the NRAI (National Rifle Association of India) selection committee decided Manu Bhaker, 21, would represent India in three events – air pistol, sports pistol and the mixed event as well. Currently in France and then on to Luxembourg for training, Manu is able to replay and tell RevSportz what all she underwent in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics, three years ago.

Yes, she has made certain hard decisions, on how she will approach the Olympics, with a Boris Becker like tunnel vision. At the same time, she does not fear a burn-out, as was the case 13 months ago.

In an exclusive chat with RevSportz, Manu Bhaker opened up, not shying away from any question.

RevSportz: How does it feel, mentally, when you compare the situation you are now in, with Croatia, before the Tokyo Olympics?

Manu: It is exactly like that, three years ago. We Indian shooters were in the camp in Croatia in 2021 and the build-up to Tokyo was a hard one. There was nervousness and apprehension, plus those were the dark days of the Covid pandemic. I mean, so many memories come back from that period now as I prepare for Paris 2024. Yes, every athlete does feel nervous, after all, heading to the Olympics, which comes once in four years. I can speak for myself, I have put in the best preparations, but till the time I shoot in Paris, the nervous energy will not go. What makes me confident is I have put in the best efforts, day and day out.

RevSportz: A year back you told me you want to quit shooting and lead a normal life?

Manu: (Smiles). Yes, I wanted to quit shooting in 2023. I was doing the same thing, again and again. People need to understand, you have to enjoy what you do in life, be it a job, following a passion or chasing a dream. For me, shooting had kind of become monotonous in 2023. I had to think a lot, and then decide, what to do, quit or regroup?

For the Latest Sports News: Click Here

Manu Bhaker with Jaspal Rana
Manu Bhaker with Jaspal Rana (PC: S Kannan)

RevSportz: Do you think, at 20, you should have quit shooting, given your immense talent and desire to work hard at the shooting ranges?

Manu: If I replay the last 10 months or a year, exactly, I know what my state of mind was. My heart was craving for more, for me to win medals for India. That is when I approached my coach, Jaspal Sir. There was sarcasm from some, but it was my decision to work with him again. And I must say, today, if I have again peaked in the trials, he has been pushing me so hard.

RevSportz: Can you explain the process which you undergo in shooting and how he deals with you. He is not there with you now in France and Luxermbourg, though he will join you for the Olympics?

Manu: There are no short-cuts for me. It’s demanding, rigorous. I am not a morning person at all, I would love to sleep an extra, few hours! No, Jaspal Sir will not allow me that. Wherever I am, he will push me, go the extra mile. It’s a daily routine, to be woken up early, train, shoot, then do my fitness stuff and more. The trials were extremely demanding in New Delhi and Bhopal and if I could come out on top, it was the way he kept me going. I am 21, been shooting for six and a half years. I feel like half my life is gone, spent in just shooting. I had no fun school life and I had no fun college life. And even today, there is nothing other than shooting, getting to be the best. If I need a day off, it’s not easy, my coach is going to motivate me, don’t stop, keep pushing. It’s rare, to get a day off, where I can sleep longer! What he keep saying is, don’t stop till the Paris Olympics, just do your best daily.

RevSportz: How would it have been to quit and lead a normal life?

Manu: No, I don’t want to think of quitting now. It’s not my effort alone, I am here to win medals for India, I dream, I dare. Honestly, 13 months back, I had almost quit. Had it not been for tying up with my coach again, my career was over. I needed that spark again, shoot for India and hope to do well. Now if you ask me, I am enjoying shooting, I am ready to train hard. And I can again smile. What happens in Paris Olympics, I cannot predict, in my heart I know I trained the best with my coach.

RevSportz: Shooting is a sport where people go on to compete in four, five, six Olympics. Not easy to win medals each time?

Manu: The change in my mindset is there for sure. I want to keep preparing for the Olympics, I can promise best efforts in Paris. I mean, I was supposed to be shooting one event in Paris, sports pistol. Then came the Olympic trials which brought the best out of me. And for me to make three events, again, is something I feel proud of. All those involved in my journey, I thank each one of them, my family, my coach, and the Indian sports system.

Also Read: New York showcases best and worst of T20 World Cup so far