India’s shooting prodigy Manu Bhaker, recently honored with the Arjuna Award, talks to The Daily Guardian about her experiences with her sport. Excerpts:
Q. Can you tell us about your current practice routine?
A. COVID has impacted all the spheres of life. Shooting is no exception. All the shooting ranges are shut. Now, shooters of the TOPS program are back into the shooting range. I am going there for quite some time. Situations are beginning to look gleaming. We seek guidance from foreign coaches through phone or other social media. Social distancing is another factor. I feel that resumption of competitions, camps, official matches, etc. are badly required to find the lost rhythm.
Q. How did you spend your time in the lockdown?
A. I did a lot of activities that were otherwise on the hold. I learned how to ride a bike, horse riding, got a pet dog (named ‘Whiskey’), enriched my cooking, and focused on painting (particularly sketching). I spent some quality time with my family members during this period. It was hard to find in an otherwise punishing schedule.
Q. Your wait for maiden Olympic appearance stretched for a year? How are you judging it, as a boon or a bane?
A. I am quite positive. This extra time has given me some extra months to concentrate.
Q. Who would you think as your biggest threat in Japan?
A. I feel shooting is a game of fine margins. One miss could be quite costly. All the shooters are on par. Frankly, I never concentrate on the opponents. I focus on my best output. With this mantra, I will do shooting in Tokyo.
Q. Can you tell us about the happiest moment in your career?
A. I’ll pick two moments. The first one was when I was the flag bearer in the Youth Olympic Games. The second one would be the CWG performance when I topped the podium in Gold Coast.
Q. And the most disappointing one?
A. My Asian Games performance in 2018.
Q. Slowly, things are returning to normal. Some tournaments in Tennis are now happening. Is normalcy arriving in shooting soon?
A. I expect that by November or December, national tournaments will restart. The international scenario will open next year.
Q. Manu, you played a lot of games in your childhood. What pulled you towards shooting?
A. Transparency was the first factor. This sport is quite a category free. The barrier of junior and senior is quite thin. Capability Counts. A 16-year-old can compete with a 60-year-old at the same time. That’s what enchanted me.
Q. Would you like to suggest something for more improvement in the game?
A. The profile is only growing. In the last 2 years, I have witnessed that it has catapulted many folds. I feel that a league could give wings to its rising popularity. I presume that in a year or two, it will witness exponential jump.
Q. Your expectations from the Japanese Capital?
A. I am quite realistic about it. I do not want to claim the color of the medal at this time. But I can surely say that I will produce my best there. I am quite hopeful of all the shooters. All are in perfect shape. I expect that the shooting team will return with at least 3-4 medals.
Q. At this critical time, what would you like to say to people?
A. Remain positive. Spend maximum time with your family. They provide the bedrock in a difficult time. Share your worries with your best friend. Avoid negative news. Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn.