Pune: World Cup debutant Manu Bhaker marked her international debut with the gold in the women’s 10m Air Pistol final, also taking India’s tally to five medals at the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The 16-year-old Bhaker pocketed India’s second gold medal in two days as she prevailed over hometown favorite Alejandra Zavala Vazquez of Mexico in the women’s 10m Air Pistol final.
Making her absolute debut in an ISSF competition, Bhaker confronted herself with a pack of experienced and multi-decorated shooters, eventually taking gold with an incredible comeback in her final two shots.
Despite sitting on a 1.9-point advantage, in fact, Vazquez fired twice inside the 8th ring, while Bhaker first reduced the gap with an 8.5, and then secured the brightest medal with a fantastic 10.6.
Thanks to Bhaker’s gold, India’s medal tally now counts two golds - both won in the Air Pistol individual events - and three bronze medals.
The third step of the podium was taken by France’s 31-athlete Celine Goberville, winner of the ISSF crystal globe at last year’s World Cup Final in New Delhi. The French 31-year-old shooter finished with 217.0 points, claiming her fourth World Cup medal.
Despite finishing just outside of the medal position, Bhaker’s teammate Yashaswini Singh Deswal (20) signed the best World Cup placement of her career, scoring 196.1 points and finishing 4th in her first final appearance.
Deswal was followed by Anna Korakaki of Greece - bearer of the highest qualification score, and bronze medalist in this event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games - who scored 177.0 points and concluded in 5th place.
Two German first-time final participants followed the Greek shooter in 6th and 7th place: 33-year-old Sandra Reitz - the wife of Germany’s multi-decorated Pistol shooter Christian Reitz - took 6th position with 155.8 points, while 30-year-old Julia Hochmuth placed 7th with 129.2.
Switzerland’s experienced shooter Heidi Diethelm Gerber placed at the bottom of the table, taking 8th place with 110.4 points.
Manu Bhaker story
Bhaker, who hails from Dadri district in Haryana, trains at the Universal Senior Secondary School in Jhajjar for four to five hours every day.
For someone who took to shooting just a little over two years ago, breaking two long-standing national records in a span of less than a month would easily qualify as some achievement.
She was not just participating there but also thriving, winning quite a few medals in thang-ta national championships, before boredom cut short her brush with contact sports.
An eye injury during a boxing bout, and her mother decided that she had had enough of “fighting”.
“I have full faith in my daughters talent and ability. Mark my words, she could be in the 2020 Olympics. Her life is more important than anything else, so I made her quit boxing and thang ta,” her mother said.
Last December, she outclassed the highly-experienced Heena Sidhu at the 61st National Shooting Championship in Thiruvanthapuram where she broke Heena’s long-standing national record.
She won a staggering 15 medals, including nine gold medals in the shooting Nationals in Kerala.
Besides boxing and thang ta, she was also a state-level skating champion, was adept at tennis, swimming and won medals in athletics in school meets.
Bhaker’s tryst with shooting began when her father took her to the range and asked her to try her hand at the sport. She fired a few shots that found the centre of the target quite a few times and the rest is history.
Ravi Kumar wins bronze
Earlier Ravi Kumar won his first World Cup medal—a Bronze medal in the Men’s 10M Air Rifle event.
Ravi had made it to three finals last year, including in the World Cup Finals, without winning a medal.
He shot 226.4 and had to beat compatriot Deepak Kumar in a shoot-off for third and fourth spots in the final.
Talented young Hungarian Istvan Peni, the world No 1, won the Gold, shooting 249.5 while Austria’s Alexander Schmirl won Silver finishing with 248.7.