Manu Bhaker loves to explore new things with her restless nature never allowing boredom to settle in. And the lockdown came as an opportunity to try out several new activities. From stitching to wall painting, archery to horse riding, to even driving a tractor, Bhaker’s Instagram wall is a montage of images, showing the current life of the 18-year-old pistol shooter. “I am restless and I want to be like that. I have this urge of learning new skills, it makes me happy,” says Bhaker.
But she never lost sight of her target—the Tokyo Olympics, which now will be held next year. “I am still dreaming about Tokyo,” says teenager. “I think about what it will be like competing in the Olympics… the excitement, the Olympic Village. It is all very much there.”
For that reason she is ‘in her zone’, spending close to four hours every day shooting with a meditative mind at the electronic range built at her home in Goriya village, Haryana. “Shooters like to train in quiet, so the lockdown has not affected us much. I have been training in different hours—not keeping it fixed—just to experiment and throw myself in a bit of unpredictability,” says Bhaker, who won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
But Bhaker is quick to add that getting to know that she is in the team for Tokyo would have helped her to have a more stable frame of mind while preparing.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) completed the selection trials but held back naming the India squad after the Olympics was postponed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bhaker earned an Olympic quota in women’s 10m pistol in which she is currently world No.2 after winning gold in the World Cup Final in November 2019. She is also eligible to compete in 25m pistol and mixed team event where she and Saurabh Chaudhary were the world’s best pair last year, winning all four World Cups.
“The announcement of the team would have given us clarity and helped in preparation. The team was to be declared in February,” she says.
Nevertheless, Bhaker is focussed on her training. “I am in touch with my coach (Jaspal Rana) and constantly taking his feedback. The focus has not shifted. I am always open to learning new things. It helps in your growth, gives a different perspective to situations,” says Bhaker. “So I am painting, stitching, horse riding—all that I wanted to learn but never had time. It is keeping me engaged, relaxed and in a positive frame of mind.
A political science student at Lady Shri Ram College here, Bhaker recently visited her school where she first started shooting after rejecting several other sports. “I went to the school range. It was so good to relive the moment again.”