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Manu Bhaker: There was no undue pressure to perform

The Indian shooting star was one of the biggest medal hopefuls but feels she’s not up to ‘Olympic standards’ yet
By Deepti Patwardhan

Things didn’t quite go according to plan for the Indian shooting team at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as they returned empty handed after promising much. Manu Bhaker, who competed in three events and was the poster girl for the young shooting squad, believes they are not up to the ‘Olympic standard’ yet.

Bhaker, 19, was one of the most decorated Indian shooters in Tokyo along with the likes of Saurabh Chaudhary, Elavenil Valarivan and Divyansh Panwar. She has won seven gold medals, across multiple events, at ISSF World Cups. The Jhajjar native had made a splash as she struck gold in 10m air pistol at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, aged only 16.

But she couldn’t replicate that form during the Tokyo Olympics. It didn't help matters her campaign got off to a rocky start: Bhaker's gun malfunctioned during the women's 10m air pistol qualifiers.

“Every tournament (we) have pressure and we had performed in similar situations like World Cup finals and World Championship where almost same players were there and we had won medals in multiple times,” Bhaker told Olympics.com.

“There was no undue pressure. Basically we could not perform as well as others did. Olympic standards are getting high and higher and we have to be on same standard or better for medals… means we need to work more.”

Bhaker had competed in three events at Tokyo 2020: women’s 10m air pistol, mixed 10m air pistol and women’s 25m air pistol. Although Bhaker was placed fifth after the precision round in qualification for 25m air pistol, she fizzled out the next day, garnering 582 points and finishing 15th after the rapid qualification round. Bhaker could not make it to the final in any of her events. In fact, in the squad of 15, Chaudhary was the only Indian shooter who made it to the finals (men’s 10m air pistol).

“This Olympics was very different and had to pay more attention on daily Covid testing and so many more restrictions and regulations,” Bhaker added.

The teenager, who also appeared for the BA (Bachelor of Arts) Exam before the Olympics, is currently on a holiday with her family.

“(I) will start training again after sometime,” Bhaker said, adding that she was slowly getting over the disappointment of Tokyo.