India pistol shooter Manu Bhaker and coach Jaspal Rana, who parted ways in March 2021, have decided to bury the hatchet.
Bhaker, who has won only one ISSF World Cup medal—a bronze—since the conclusion of the fated Tokyo Olympics, has decided to return to her former mentor under whose tutelage she had bagged 10 senior WC medals (2018-2021) and a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2018.
“It has been around a month (since we started training together again). It took us a little time... There’s not much talk and we don’t need to answer to anyone. It is working like it was working before. She needed my help and I am here,” Rana says.
When asked if he was back on official capacity, Rana said, “I am an independent person and can work with anyone I want. Yes (I am back as Manu’s personal coach).”
Rana, India’s most successful athlete at CWG with 15 medals, and Bhaker had a public fallout ahead of the Summer Games in 2021, when in a rather bizarre display, Rana wore a white shirt with Bhaker’s personal messages scribbled on the back at the Delhi World Cup. The relationship had started turning sour ever since Rana had started to back Chinki Yadav, another one of his trainees, as India’s 25m pistol candidate ahead of Bhaker for Tokyo 2020.
Even as Ronak Pandit was appointed as Bhaker’s coach after the incident, then National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) president Raninder Singh had gone on record to remark: “There was just one person who was the negative factor in the whole thing. I am referring to Jaspal Rana.”
Rana, however, wouldn’t want to dwell much on the past. “What has happened in the past has happened... Who was wrong and who was right doesn’t matter now, because we all have tasted the bland result. If we keep talking about that, we will not be going anywhere ahead. She has the potential. I know a lot of things have happened which weren’t right. I think I know her quite well, so it won’t be that difficult,” he says.
Meanwhile, Ramkishan, Bhaker’s father, said, “She has been asking for help (from Rana) for quite some time now. Even Jaspal used to respond to her scores at tournaments by himself and scold her for not doing certain things right. If they are actually working together (Ramkishan said he was unaware of the development), then it wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
With the ISSF World Championship and Paris Olympics knocking on the door, it will be interesting to witness the duo successfully combine again to recreate the magic of the past.
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