The biggest surprise of Indian shooting, in a year it dominated world shooting, was Manu Bhaker being asked to compete in the junior section of mixed air pistol in the ongoing National Championship in Bhopal.
It has already been chronicled well that Manu and Saurabh Chaudhary swept all the four gold medals in mixed air pistol in the World Cups this season in Delhi, Beijing, Munich and Rio de Janeiro. Manu won the Asian championship gold with Abhishek Verma and the World Cup Final
gold with Russian Artem Chernousov.
It was a phenomenal climax when Manu won the individual women’s air pistol gold in the World Cup Final in Putian, China, to affix her stamp of class.
It has been an encouraging growth of the young girl from Haryana, who won the women’s World Cup in Guadalajara in 2018, on her debut at that level, when she was 16 years of age.
When others were busy winning the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medals, Manu was digesting harsh lessons, after high scores in qualification. She then bounced back to win the Youth Olympics gold.
It was equally incredible this year that Manu showed great character and fighting spirit, after missing the Olympic quota, owing to a pistol malfunction, in sports pistol in the Munich World Cup this year, to win the air pistol Olympic quota the next day in air pistol, when she missed a medal by 0.1 point.
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It is a travesty of justice that Manu does not have the Arjuna award for all her achievements, when many have been decorated even for a fraction of such accomplishments.
Manu did win the junior mixed air pistol gold in the National championship, swallowing her pride, on being sidelined by Haryana for the senior mixed event. When the best of shooters who had secured 15 Olympic quota for Tokyo 2020 fumbled, Manu stood tall to win the women’s and junior air pistol gold in the National championship apart from the silver in the sports pistol.
In such a scenario, it may be difficult to keep Manu away from competing in three events in the Olympics next year. Equally, it may be difficult to give her the Arjuna award after an Olympic medal!
Indian shooting has been so dominant this season, that such shining performances like that of Manu has gone unnoticed.
Three shooters, Elavenil Valarivan, Saurabh Chaudhary and Divyansh Singh Panwar, ending the year as No.1 and winning the Golden Target award from the International Federation, was the crowning glory for Indian shooting on the global stage.
Equally fascinating was how Abhishek Verma and Saurabh Chaudhary swept all the four gold medals, two each in men’s air pistol, in the four World Cups. Apurvi Chandela was amazing as she won two World Cup gold medals at home and abroad, with World record to boot in women’s air pistol.
It was lively season when Indian shooting overwhelmed the world, including the power house China, with a bang. The shotgun came short, except for the brilliant manner in which Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Olympian Mairaj Ahmad Khan won the two Olympic quota places in skeet
with a dramatic gold and silver finish in the Asian Championship.
Indian shooting has no time to celebrate the brilliant season, as it attempts to tune its sight on the Olympics in Tokyo that is a few months away.