Former shooter Anjali Bhagwat backs young Manu Bhaker to come good, advises not to get bogged down by failures

Mumbai: India’s 16-year-old shooting star Manu Bhaker might be having a tough time to match her early successes, but the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has received support from three-time Olympian shooter Anjali Bhagwat.

Bhagwat, a former world champion in 10m air rifle, told Firstpost that despite returning empty-handed from the recently-concluded Asian Games in Indonesia, Manu remains a “real prodigy” who needs to be nurtured well.

Former shooter Anjali Bhagwat backs young Manu Bhaker to come good, advises not to get bogged down by failures

Manu Bhaker reacts after winning the gold medal during 2018 Commonwealth Games. AP

“She is a superb shooter; too perfect technically. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult for her to shoot those world record scores,” Bhagwat, who is also a sports expert at Sony Pictures Network, said, referring to Bhaker's record score of 240.9 that she shot at the CWG earlier this year.

At the Asian Games, Manu competed in three events: 25m air pistol, 10m air pistol, and 10m air pistol mixed team. She finished sixth in the 25m after creating a games record in qualifications (593), fifth in 10m air pistol final, and failed to make it to the final of 10m mixed team event where she partnered with Abhishek Verma.
Bhagwat, however, feels that not much be read into Manu’s non-performance.

“In finals, it happens. Even Abhinav Bindra hasn’t won many World Cups or World Championships medals, but that doesn’t mean she is not ready for big stage. She shot better in CWG, where she had tough competition from Heena Sidhu also. It just happens, just a bad day,” she said.

Apart from her shooting, Manu’s temperament was discussed and debated during the Asian Games, with reports claiming that the young shooter had ‘banned’ her parents to travel with her. Later, when she failed to make it to the mixed-team final, junior team coach Jaspal Rana called her out for her temperament.

“She (Manu Bhaker) needs to control her temperament. The kind of attitude she has needs to be improved (sic). Anger will not help her in any way. She just gave up,” Rana had said.

Bhagwat though doesn’t concur. “I am very surprised to see people talking about her temperament. Few hours before her final, she had the same temperament and she shot a Games record. When she won the CWG gold, she had the same temperament.”

Manu is currently competing in the ISSF World Championships in Changwon, South Korea, where despite shooting a creditable 574 in qualifying, she couldn’t make the cut for the finals.

Bhagwat said that an elite athlete must also learn to cope with failures, and advised Manu not to take reversals to heart.

“My only advice to her is to chill; you have done well. It’s not the end of your career, it happens to the most senior athletes. Don’t forget whatever you have learnt at CWG or Asian Games,” she said.

The Indian shooting contingent at the Asian Games had quite a few teenagers, with the likes of Anish Bhanwala and Saurabh Chaudhary making their continental debut. Bhagwat, while praising National Rifle Association of India’s (NRAI) junior programme, ruled out the possibility of the team travelling with a sports psychologist or a mental-conditioning coach.

“I have rarely come across an excellent sports psychologist in India. You have to have a sports psychologist working with you round the clock, not just two days before the competition or during a competition. Even if you provide a sports psychologist in national camp, it won’t make a difference because a psychologist needs to be with the player 24 by 7 to understand his/her behaviour, to know the family and friends. And don’t forget, every shooter is different. One sports psychologist can’t fit for all athletes,” she concluded.

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Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 12:53:36 IST

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