Manu Bhaker, India’s Pistol Queen, Rebounds with Four Medals at Nationals

Manu Bhaker
Manu Bhaker (Image: Twitter/X). This has been a year where Manu has seen highs and lows

Manu Bhaker, India’s pistol-shooting queen, capped a brilliant year by winning four medals at the National Championships in Bhopal. This has been a year where Manu has seen highs and lows, yet regaining control of her emotions and making her own decisions has worked out well for her.

In an exclusive interview with RevSportz, Manu opened up on the year gone by. If you thought this was the end of her competitions in 2023, she is mentally ready to participate in one more trial, if the National Rifle Association of India decides to conduct one.

Is it not tough that an athlete has to keep peaking, for the lows are almost as inevitable as the highs? “I do not think about all this at all,” said Manu. “The number of competitions I have shot this year, including the trials, has been high. I just do what my coach (Jaspal Rana) asks me to do. Period.”

Just before the National Games in Goa, Manu was injured. “I had upper shoulder and back trouble because of which I pulled out from the National Games,” she said. “I needed rest and physio treatment to get back.”

To be sure, 2023 has not been all sweetness and light for Manu. For someone who was used to shooting air pistol, sports pistol and mixed events in the international arena, she was upset when dropped from one event. “Yes, it did hurt me when I was dropped from the air pistol team, so for me to come into the Nationals and win four medals, including one in air pistol, it makes me happy,” said Manu. “I am happy with my scores as well, though there is always a lot more to do.”

When she decided late in the summer of 2023 that she was again going to team up with Rana as her personal coach, it set the cat among the pigeons. The relationship between them is of massive trust and respect. “I have the highest respect for Jaspal Sir and he has brought out the best in me, that is what matters,” said Manu. “When I did not do well in the World Championship, there was pressure. We worked on technique and getting better. It is a process. I won a team gold at the Asian Games, but knew I had to put in more effort.”

At a time when a young pistol crop led by Esha Singh did well at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Manu went back to the basics after returning from China. She had won only a team medal in Hangzhou. “I think working with my coach intensively before the Asian Championship (Changwon, South Korea) was important,” she said. “I did not win a medal at the Asian Championship in the sports pistol event (25 metres), but to seal a quota place for India made me proud. I got my confidence back and I believe I am geared up for all the challenges ahead.”

What next? “I definitely need to work hard on my fitness and my physios are handling me well,” said Manu. “It is very important to stay a 100 per cent fit and enjoy the sport. I love shooting. It gives me happiness, there is nothing beyond that. I leave my entire training and what I have to do on a daily basis to my personal coach, it makes it easier for me.”

What are her thoughts on the selection policy being tweaked for the 2024 Paris Olympics? “To be honest, I have not really spent time on all that,” said Manu. “My energy has been devoted to shooting and my technique. There are a lot of things which I need not worry about. 

“For me to shoot well in the Nationals in sports pistol and also air, an event I am not regularly part of, gives me joy. I also helped my Haryana team win medals. If I have to return to New Delhi and again start training with Jaspal Sir, I will do that. I will keep working on my technique and consistency, that’s it.”

Latest Medals
National championships, Bhopal
Gold in 25m sports pistol individual and team event.
Bronze in 10m air pistol individual and gold in team event.

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