Women who inspire us: Manu Bhaker

For any 18-year-old, carrying the hopes of a nation can be a burden. Not for Manu Bhaker, who has been in that position for almost two years now.

Since taking up Shooting and winning her first medals, Manu Bhaker has racked up an impressive haul.   -  Special Arrangement

For any 18-year-old, carrying the hopes of a nation – especially in an Olympic year – can be a burden. Not for Manu Bhaker, who has been in that position for almost two years now.

Since taking up the sport and winning her first medals, she has racked up an impressive haul. Her first medal came at the 2017 Asian Junior Championships (silver) but her name began making waves at the national games later that year. She won nine gold medals by defeating former world No.1 Heena Sidhu, while also breaking the points record in the process.

Since then, it has been a steady rise for Bhaker. A year later, she won two more gold medals to become the youngest Indian to bag the yellow metal at a World Cup. She also brought home the Commonwealth Games gold with a record-setting point total.

READ | Manu Bhaker: 'Working on mental strength and technique'

When all seemed rosy, she faltered at the 2018 Asian Games. Despite starting her qualification with a record score, she couldn’t convert her form into a medal. It was the first ‘setback’ of her young career.

If there were any doubts, in her head or in others’, they were quashed at the 2018 Youth Olympics. Chosen as India’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony, her performance matched the hype around her. She became the first shooter from India and the first female athlete to win gold at the Youth Olympics.

 

Every time she steps up to shoot, she seems like a natural. Yet, this wasn’t the sport she first took to. She excelled in boxing, tennis, skating and even a Manipuri martial art called Thang-ta initially, winning medals at national and international levels.

At 14, inspired by her grandfather who was also a great marksman in the Indian military, Bhaker figured that shooting was her calling. In hindsight, she hit the bullseye with her decision.

This women’s day, we celebrate Manu Bhaker for everything she has achieved and a lot more she will – starting with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.