Manu Bhaker's Tokyo heartbreak: Shooter overcame similar setback in Munich

On Sunday, when her weapon malfunctioned at the Asaka Shooting Range, the 19-year-old did not let emotions get the better of her.

Indian shooter Manu Bhaker's weapon malfunctioned at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo on Sunday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Manu Bhaker suffered the heartbreak of missing out on a berth in the 10m air pistol final at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, an equipment snag surfacing on the big stage. This had a distinct whiff of déjà vu about it.

On May 28, 2019, Manu, while competing at the Munich World Cup in the 25m rapid fire pistol category, jointly led the pack with compatriot Rahi Sarnobat and Olena Kosteyvch of Ukraine at one point. In the seventh series, however, she misfired to register a zero after an equipment malfunction.

Manu broke down even as her coaches tried to console her. Rahi went on to win the event and, more importantly, a quota for Tokyo. Manu, then, was still without one.

The very next day, however, Manu picked herself up to book a ticket to the Olympics in 10m air pistol, although she missed out on a medal by a mere 0.1 point. The Jhajjar-born shooter proved her doubters wrong by bouncing back from what was then being seen as one of the worst days of her young career.

Manu's father, Ramkishan, had then spoken of her mental fortitude.  “If you observe her really closely, Manu keeps muttering something under her breath when she registers low scores. She keeps saying, ‘You can do it, Manu. It’s alright. You can do it...’ She is very mature that way.”

READ | Pistol snag costs Manu Bhaker a final spot, shooters find the going tough in Tokyo

On Sunday, when her weapon malfunctioned at the Asaka Shooting Range, the 19-year-old did not let emotions get the better of her. Instead, as the other shooters carried on, Manu calmly raised her hand to call upon mentor Ronak Pandit. Having communicated the issue, Manu accompanied Ronak to the jury. After a brief deliberation, Manu was allowed to replace or repair her weapon in the equipment change room.

Former World No. 1 pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, who is also Ronak's wife, got on a call with the Indian coach after the event. She said, "From what I heard (from Ronak), Manu somehow broke the cocking lever of her pistol. It is the small, hinged cap which you pick up and load your pellets. Only after closing the lever, you can shoot.

ALSO READ | Tokyo 2020 Olympics Shooting: Divyansh, Deepak fail to qualify for 10m air rifle final; Angad 11th, Mairaj 25th in skeet qualification after three rounds

"They, however, had spare parts. But then again, in order to change the lever, you would have to remove the grip and the electric circuit at the bottom. It was done and when everything was fixed, the weapon was still not working. Turned out, the circuit had overheated as well, and they had to again open and change all of it."

Despite the setback, in which Manu lost about seven of the 75 allotted minutes, she calmly approached lane 52 again to resume her event. However, there was no denying the added pressure of time. Having dropped only four points after 16 shots, before her pistol gave up, Manu roared back to form with four consecutive inner-10s. But with the clock constantly dying on her, she hit an 8 on the last shot. Her total stood at 575-14x. An inner-10 would have seen her qualify seventh. She made it close amid the odds.

"The fact that Manu managed to finish even after this ordeal is brilliant. An inner-10 of the last shot, and we would all have been chanting her comeback story now," said Heena.

Manu's Tokyo 2020 podium hopes, however, aren't over. She will feature in two more events — 10m air pistol mixed team on Tuesday and 25m women's pistol on Thursday. Will Sunday's happenings have a bearing on her running as one of India's strongest medal prospects at the Olympics? "I don't think so," said Heena. "This wasn't her fault. A (weapon) malfunction is a rare occurrence. She just happened to be unfortunate. I am sure she'll sit down, analyse what happened and come back stronger. Since she is participating in multiple events, she's in a way playing more than one Olympics. The stage fright is gone. She is set to do much better."

Incidentally, Manu had addressed a question on setback and pressure in an interview with Sportstar shortly after securing the Olympic quota in Munich. “As shooters, we always need to overcome everything — ups and downs... even happiness sometimes."

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :