Manu Bhaker is turning out to be the golden girl of Indian shooting. After bagging multiple medals in the ISSF World Cup in Mexico and the Junior World Cup in Sydney, the 16-year-old from Jhajjar, Haryana on Sunday opened India’s account at the Commonwealth Games shooting competition at nearby Brisbane with a brilliant performance belying her age.
Manu came up with a stellar show to win gold medal in the women’s 10m air pistol, becoming the youngest gold medallist for India in shooting. To add to her achievement, she bagged the gold with a Commonwealth Games record in qualifying.
Manu’s gold was also the first in shooting at Gold Coast and there was nobody more suited to lift it as Manu now looks – the star for the future not only for India but also for shooting sport as well. Though the Asian Games and Olympics will be bigger tests, the fact that Manu won the gold with a Games Record on Sunday proves that she is capable of crossing those hurdles too.
The icing on the cake for India was that seasoned Heena Sidhu fought back after slipping to sixth in the final to complete a grand gold-silver double for the country that is expected to dominate shooting at these Games.
India had some more good news on the opening day of competition at the Belmont Shooting Centre as Ravi Kumar won bronze medal in men’s 10m air rifle competition finishing behind Australia’s Dane Sampson and Abdullah Hel Baki of Bangladesh.
However, India could not bag a double in the men’s 10m air rifle competition despite Deepak Kumar and Ravi Kumar qualifying in 1-2 position. Deepak, who set the Commonwealth Games record by scoring 627 in qualifying round, faltered in the final and eventually finished sixth among eight finalists.
In skeet, Saniya Sheikh finished fourth overall after shooting 32 in the final while compatriot Maheshwari Chauhan finished eighth in the qualifying and failed to make it to the final.
MANU ALL THE WAY
Earier in the women’s 10m air pistol, Manu made a perfect start at the Belmont Shooting Centre as she led from the start, topped the table in the qualifying round and never let her concentration and confidence flag during the final.
Manu shot 388 in qualifying round, hitting 10 perfect shots to set a Games record. She started with 98 out of 100 in first round and maintained that level with scores of 98, 96 and 96. Heena, who struggled to find her rhythm, managed scores of 94, 96m 93 and 96 for a total of 379.
In the final, Manu a perfect 10.9 on her 20th shot while she had 10.8 in her 13th shot as she finished with a score of 240.9 for a Games Record. In all she shot ten or more on 14 shots.
While Manu was going strong in leading position, Heena slipped to sixth spot after a couple of 9.2s and a 9.0 in the first 10 shots before recovering to take silver medal. Heena was sixth after the 15th shot in the final but the Delhi 2010 runner-up showed her class from the 16th shot and pushed up to second place on her 19th with a score of 10.2. On the next shot, she scored 9.5 while Australia’s Elena Galiabovitch shot ahead with 10.5. However, Heena had already gained the momentum and went on to overcome the Australian’s challenge to take silver.
“Actually, I was praying more for Heena as she had slipped down to sixth. She managed to comeback and that made our day as we wanted to win gold and silver for the country,” said Manu.
Though she was in lead from the start, Manu said she did not think of medals or her position in the standings but concentrated more on her technique.
“I didn’t think of it (medal). I just tried to focus on my technique, to be perfect,” the 16-year-old said.
“It’s a great feeling to hear the national anthem play. I wanted Heena also to be on the podium with me and that happened. I was completely focussed on the job on hand and not thinking too far ahead about the shots that had already been fired,” she added.