Manu Bhaker, the new pin-up girl among Indian shooters, showcased her immense talent as she stylishly gained the women’s 10m air pistol gold in the XXI Commonwealth Games at the shooting centre, Brisbane, on Sunday.
The 16-year-old, who hails from Jhajjar, Haryana, is already the youngest Indian to win an ISSF World Cup gold and has shot into prominence with her sterling display in the 61st National championships in Thiruvananthapuram last December.
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It was clear she wasn't bogged down with fear on her Commonwealth Games debut; her result in the qualifying round and the final spoke of her approach towards the competition, competing alongside 24 other participants. She came out with flying colours, her feat pulled off with serene calmness that camouflaged her deep desire to excel.
The event also had the seasoned Heena Sidhu in the fray; Heena eventually helped India finish a creditable 1-2 in the event. Bhaker and Heena were on top of the qualifying rounds, with Bhaker coming up with a superb 388 out of a possible 400 — a new Games record – and Sidhu returning a total of 379.
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The manner in which the two Indians shot in the qualifiers also signalled they were the ones to beat in the final. Through the qualifiers, Bhaker had a sequence of 98, 98, 96 and 96. Sidhu’s card read: 94, 96, 93, 96.
In the final, Bhaker was unrelenting. She hardly gave room for any one to catch up with her; after hitting the top straightaway, she went from strength to strength to claim gold with a total of 240.9 — another Games record.
Striving for perfection
Sidhu, on the other hand, lived dangerously in the initial stages, slipping to the sixth place at one stage. She gathered her wits and ploughed her way back. Sidhu, in second, finished with a total of
234.0, while Australia’s Elena Galiabotvitch took bronze with 214.9 points. Bhaker was all humility personified when she went on to say, “No, I did not expect it. I just tried to perfect my technique, be perfect.”
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The dice did not roll quite as well for India in the other two finals of the day, even if it did bring about another medal – a bronze – from the men’s 10m air rifle.
In the qualifiers of this event, the Indians — Deepak Kumar and Ravi Kumar — proved to be hot
guns. In the final, Deepak was forced to be satisfied with the sixth spot before Ravi Kumar, surviving a shootout for the fourth place, took bronze behind Australia’s Dane Sampson (245.0) and Bangladesh’s Abdullah Hel Baki (244.7). Ravi’s score as he improved upon his fourth place of Glasgow 2014 was 224.1.
Saniya misses out
It was a pity that form deserted Saniya Shetty, who was second after the qualifications, at a most inopportune moment. The Meerut-based shooter was well in contention before she blanked out during crucial moments. She was forced to settle for the fourth spot with a score of 32 out of 40.
Her double miss in the 39th and 40th shots was what led to her elimination.
In men’s skeet, which went through Day One of the qualification, the two Indians — Sheeraz Sheikh and Smit Singh — were placed seventh and 11th respectively, with a personal score card of 48 and 46.
Men: 10m air rifle: 1. Dane Sampson (Aus) 623.2, 245.0, 2. Abdullah Hel Baki (Ban), 616.0, 2. 244.7, 3. Ravi Kumar (Ind), 626/8, 224.1. 6. Deepak Kumar (Ind), 627.2, 162.3.
Women: 10m air pistol 1. Manu Bhaker (Ind), 388, 240.9, 2. Heena Sidhu (Ind), 379, 234.0, 3. Elena Galiabotvich (Aus), 376, 214.9.
Skeet: 1.Andri Eleftheriou (Cyp), 69, 52, 2. Amber Hill (Eng), 69, 49, 3. Panagiota Andreou (Cyp), 74, 40, 4. Saniya Sheikh (Ind), 71, 32.