Tokyo Olympics: Manu Bhaker on her preparations, training regime and missing mom's food!

“I am happy that I am getting to represent my country at the Olympics. It is the biggest and most important competition for all players. I am putting in a lot of hard work. I hope to make everyone proud,” says young Manu Bhaker.

“The delay gave us time to work even more on our technique but the pandemic also posed a lot of challenges,” says Manu Bhaker.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Manu Bhaker is 19, but a dominant force in the world of shooting. On her own, she can fight for two medals in the Tokyo Olympics — in 10-metre air pistol and the 25-metre sports pistol.

With Saurabh Chaudhary, it is suffice to say that she has won the mixed air pistol gold in the last five World Cups. She also won the World Cup Final mixed gold with a Russian, and the Asian Championship mixed gold with Abhishek Verma. Manu Bhaker is the golden girl of Indian shooting. Bubbling with energy and sparkling with her twinkling eyes that ooze confidence when you talk to her, the second year student of Lady Shriram College in Delhi, has the potential to make the unbelievable happen.

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It was lively to catch up with her as the Indian shooting team honed its skills for the Tokyo Games in its European base in Zagreb, Croatia.

How has the training been, and the European championship, in Croatia?

Training is going good. Competition was also good. I am happy but not 100% satisfied. Still, l think it was fine in the European Championship. There is always something we need to improve. So, I will focus on it. My performance should get even better, especially in 10-metre.

How happy are you to be competing in the Olympics at 19 years of age?

Age is of no concern. I am happy that I am getting to represent my country at the Olympics. It is the biggest and most important competition for all players. I am putting in a lot of hard work. I hope to make everyone proud.

With Saurabh Chaudhary, Manu Bhaker has won the mixed air pistol gold in the last five World Cups.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

 

You were ready to shoot in the Olympics last year. Is the one year delay an advantage for you?

I am not thinking about it. In some ways, it is better and in some ways it is not. Still, whatever be the situation, it is the same for everyone in the whole world. Hence, it is fine. Yes, the delay gave us time to work even more on our technique but the pandemic also posed a lot of challenges.

It is a lot of hard work and training for air pistol and sports pistol. How much do you enjoy and feel proud about being world-class in the two events?

Many people say it is difficult to shoot more events, but I have been shooting three events from the beginning. So, for me, it is totally normal. No one said anything about it for World Cup or World Championship. So, why think about it now? On the contrary, now I have more experience to shoot more events and perform well in all. I like both events and it helps me to keep my focus high.

READ| Manu Bhaker, on board the Tokyo bus

You generally had so many competitions before the pandemic, travelling around the world. Have you managed to compensate for the lack of competition with some other ways of training and preparation?

It is not the same, but we are trying our best to be ready for competition. Because of the pandemic there were very few options. Still, we are doing our best by shooting competitions in training. Also, in training camps, the coaches arrange practice matches among the team members. Sometimes we also invite other shooters to compete with us in friendly practice matches and give away some award for the winner. We got additional exposure in the European Championship. There is a World Cup coming up. I think we will all be ready and prepared well.

Do you miss college? Are you treated as a superstar there by friends? You had to take online exams from Croatia...

Yes, I miss college and my friends very much. I don’t like the star’s behaviour, I am not like that. I am the same with people who know me.

Star power should be used on competitors not on friends! Yes I appeared for online exams. I hope soon the world becomes normal and we can go to college and live life normally. I like studying, so it is OK.

How much did your creative work like painting etc., help you during the lockdown days?

Creative work always helps. It is like a dessert to the brain, as I look at it. It is engaging, liberating. Exploring different things and colours is always exciting, at least to me. Great time-pass idea without letting the mind go into some negative zone.

“I have a daily routine which includes yoga in the morning, then technical training at range and physical training in the evening. So, the whole day goes in training,” says the youngster.   -  AP

 

Now, the opposite. How do you view being away from home, focused on training, and going straight to the Olympics from Europe?

It is good, there are no distractions at all. We are all preparing for Olympics and this is a very small sacrifice, and very important in the current situation. I can take a short break after Olympics to be with family. Right now, it is all about the Olympics. Also, it will be safest to travel directly to Tokyo from Europe. I think our federation did very good planning by shifting the entire shooting team to a safe place.

READ| Manu Bhaker: The ballerina of ballistics!

Are you missing your mom’s food?

Oh, don’t remind me of mom’s food! I miss the parantha, makhan and chutney so badly now. But as sportspersons we have to learn to adjust to new cuisines from different countries. Things can never get as good as the food back home. Now, I have learnt to adjust with other cuisines. Here the team has tied up with an Indian restaurant. We get good Indian food regularly and so I am happy.

Do restrictions on screen time with mobile, computer etc. continue...

Yes, I don’t use my phone a lot except to coordinate with coaches and team members and my support team regarding training. Other than that I use phone for my music but not social media.

I have a daily routine which includes yoga in the morning, then technical training at range and physical training in the evening. So, the whole day goes in training. I like to sleep more to help in recovery.

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