India’s Bhaker takes on all comers

Ace shooter was probably the quietest person in the Sarmiento Park venue, but her results were making even more noise than her gun, as she outscored all her male and female rivals.

Picture by IOC/OIS - Florian Eisele

No matter who she is shooting against, Indian shooter Manu Bhaker is well used to punching above her weight in the world of elite sport. The 16-year-old came to the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games as a red-hot favourite in the women’s air pistol 10m, having picked up the gold medal in the same event at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

She duly delivered, finishing top of the pile in Tuesday’s individual event at the Sarmiento Park shooting venue, and on Thursday she was back in action in the qualification round of the mixed international team contest.

Once again, the Indian shooter outscored all the other women in the competition. Only on this occasion she also left the 20 men competing in the event in her wake. “I didn’t plan to do anything like that,” she said. “It just happened. “Of course girls can beat boys. This is not a muscular game where boys will always win. This is more a mental sport. It depends on how we are prepared. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy.”

Bhaker leaves Buenos Aires as the only shooter with more than one medal after she added the silver alongside teammate Bezhan Fayzullaev, from Tajikistan, in the mixed international competition on Friday.

Outshooting the boys sees her follow in the footsteps of China’s Zhang Shan, who famously won Olympic gold in the mixed gender skeet competition at the Barcelona 1992 Games.

Bhaker in action against Tajikistan’s Bezhan Fayzullaev in the 10m air pistol mixed international
Picture by Bhaker in action against Tajikistan’s Bezhan Fayzullaev in the 10m air pistol mixed international (Lukas Schulze for OIS/IOC)

Few onlookers were surprised at Bhaker’s success, with Colombia’s Juana Rueda Vargas, who finished 15th in the individual event, saying: “The rules were changed this year. Now both genders take the same number of shots, whereas before us girls took 40 and the men took 60.

“I’m not surprised Manu is shooting better than every man in this competition. This year women started winning against men. I think it’s good so everybody realises that we have never been less than them.”