'Olympic medal hope from Manu Bhaker is short-sighted view'

India's rifle coach for juniors wants shooters like Manu Bhaker should not be put under any pressure to win medals at the Olympics immediately.

Manu Bhaker made a strong comeback at the Youth Olympics by striking a gold.   -  PTI

Deepali Deshpande, one-time participant (Athens Olympics 2004 in 50m 3 positions) and currently India's rifle coach for juniors, is a firm believer in allowing young shooters like Manu Bhaker to grow at their own pace, instead of expecting an Olympic medal right at the outset.

“Talking about a medal from Manu at the 2020 Olympics is a short-sighted view I feel. If it happens, let it happen naturally, there is no need to put pressure (on her).”

The 16-year-old struck gold at the ongoing Youth Olympics 2018 in Buenos Aires, partly making up for the misses in the senior ranks at the Asian Games and the ISSF World Championships afterwards. Deepali explains that shooting fans must understand that youngsters need breathing space to grow. “These are like flower buds, let them blossom naturally, why pull them up by force to make them look tall. Some buds bloom in two days, another may take two years.”

The Arjuna awardee shooter observed: “Manu’s inborn talent may earn her a place at the next Olympic Games. We have not yet provided her with the technical expertise to attain that level, she is doing it on her own, based on her understanding of the sport.”

Asked about the time needed for young talented shooters to develop consistency. “You cannot forget Manu’s age, she is just learning. These competitions are part of her learning experience. She is not yet ready to perform, even then the scores are high, so imagine the calibre in her,” she said.

“Like all teenagers, we need to understand that they are kids and there is a limit to the pressure put on them. Talents like Manu need to be protected and nurtured, without breaking their spirit when things don’t happen right, like dealing with our own sons and daughters. Taking the pain of defeat is not what we want them to feel at this age. A friend not talking to them (because they did not win a medal for India) disturbs them. These kids are not ready to handle that kind of situation yet,” Deepali added.

Meanwhile, there is another young crop of Indian shooters, who revel in a competitive situation. 16-year-old pistol shooter Saurabh Chaudhary is one such example.

“Right from day one, when they enter the national squad, we make them understand that juniors category is made for learning. Winning a junior medal is not our goal, preparing them for the seniors by building a strong base is our aim,” Deepali said.