Manu Bhaker braces up for the grind ahead: Ready for Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Manu Bhaker is savouring success after a long time. Not having done well at the Asian Games, the 16-year-old bounced back to win gold in the Youth Olympics air pistol event in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.A day after winning the gold, Manu was the same smiling self, happy to be in the company of coach Jaspal Rana and other shooters like Sourabh Choudhary.”It’s very nice to win an Olympic medal, even if it be the Youth Olympics. This has been a very hectic year and tiring one for me. If I were to look back, I can say I am satisfied,” Manu told Mail Today on Wednesday.Manu Bhaker becomes first Indian shooter to win gold at Youth OlympicsBeing away from home for long periods, where the shooting group is her family and coach Jaspal the guru and guide, Manu has been the paragon of hard work.Undoubtedly, she was under tremendous pressure at the Asian Games in Palembang and could not do well. Critics lashed out at her but Jaspal was not bothered. He had always maintained for any shooter, a bad day in office or a few bad results would help bounce back.Manu says she is excited and the atmosphere in Buenos Aires is different. “The Commonwealth Games was a different experience, Asian Games different and the World Cup new. In the Youth Olympics, the atmosphere is nice with so many people from different countries here. From here till the main Olympics (Tokyo 2020) it will be a different journey. To qualify for the Tokyo Olympics requires a lot of hard work and I am ready for it,” said Manu.advertisementThe Youth Olympics Games are not yet over for Manu. With the mixed competition now becoming almost a must in major multi-discipline Games, there is a different event in Buenos Aires. Once the boys’ air pistol event is over, there will be a mixed event.In this, the top girls’ air pistol shooter will be pairing with the last shooter in boys’ event. Likewise, the top shooter in boys’ event will be paired with the girl who finished last in air pistol. “This is going to be a very different competition for me. It will be a level playing field and the match will be spread over two days,” said Manu, who has before this taken part in mixed events.Usually in mixed event, pairs are from the same country. The Youth Olympic Games, being held under the International Olympic Committee banner, has come up with a new idea.Manu had begun the year with a gold in the World Cup in Mexico. It was her first major competition in the seniors’ category. After that, she has faced competition and also given a tough fight to the more seasoned Heena Sidhu. Manu knows she is no longer a “junior” in the strict sense and will be competing with seniors.This is where coach Jaspal feels is the big difference. “It’s easy to get carried away by success and I am repeating this. For most junior shooters, there are plenty of distractions. The path ahead for Manu is not easy. She has to stay focused and work much harder. The Youth Olympic Games gold is big for her but she has the talent to do a lot more,” Jaspal told Mail Today.