While the professional schedule of athletes and sportsmen is impeded in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, they are getting ample time to indulge in other activities. The entire social media is flooded with the off-table activities of the secluded athletes.
While some are trying to hone culinary skills, musical indulgences, or indoor training sessions, others like Manu Bhaker are learning to get their hands-on learning to operate automobiles. Manu, an Indian Olympian who excels at airgun shooting, took to Twitter and shared with her fans that she is learning to ride a motorbike. The Commonwealth gold medallist wrote she already knows how to ride a cycle, scooter and car; however, her dexterity with riding bike is improving.
“Cycle: check, Scooty: check, Bike: almost check,” read her tweet, accompanied by her smiling picture. She had earlier revealed on Twitter that she has donated Rs 1 lakh in “Haryana Corona CARES Fund”. She’d further urged others to contribute to the cause as well. Manu’s deft expertise in 25m air-pistol shooting has won her two gold medals in the category in the national shooting championship. Nevertheless, secluded amidst the lockdown, she is focusing on 10m air pistol.
“We have been provided with electronic targets and facilities at home by Sports Authority of India (SAI). I am practising hard with the training pieces of equipment,” she informed. Manu relishes her lockdown escapades with archery as well. She’d posted a video of the stint on her social media. Like most Haryanvi girls, she has had a penchant for sports since childhood. Manu laid her hand on Huyen longlon (a form of martial art), boxing, tennis and skating, fetching some medals at the national level in the respective disciplines.
Later, she heard her inner call for shooting and proceeded with a firm resolve. She hogged the national headlines when she claimed nine gold medals in the 2017 national shooting championship in Kerala, breaking the record of Heena Sidhu. The road to glory was not easy for a military background girl. Carving a niche at the national stage was the toughest assignment as the challenger was former world number 1 and world-record holder Heena Sidhu.
Both have competed at numerous shooting ranges across the globe, including the 2018 CWG games at Gold Coast, where Manu clinched Gold in the 10m air pistol, leaving the veteran Heena to silver. Since then Manu has not looked back. At the age of 16, she became the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup. Manu quelled her nervousness and defeated the two-times world champion for gold. At Buenos Aires, she lifted gold medal in the Youth Olympics. However, with the Olympics shifted to 2021, she is “very hopeful” that the Tokyo Games will not be postponed any further.
Manu’s road for an Olympic medal in the 10m pistol is fraught with fierce competition, as she has to face opponents like Zhang Mengxue of China, the reigning Olympic champion, and Vitalina Batsarashkina the Russian shooter who is on her spree to upgrade her silver. Moreover, Anna Korakai, who represented Greece at the 2016 Summer Olympics and won a gold medal in the 25m pistol, is also looking forward to maintain her streak at the Tokyo Olympics. Then, there is Zorana Arunovic, the Serbian shooter who is currently the world number one.