Manu Bhaker oozes confidence, says coaches going to Croatia will be best for Tokyo Olympics as well

Manu Bhaker oozes confidence, says coaches going to Croatia will be best for Tokyo Olympics as well

The Indian shooting squad began its Tokyo Olympics odyssey by leaving for Croatia on Tuesday. The 15-member pistol and rifle squad, accompanied by a motley mix of coaches, physios and some cameramen flew from the IG airport in a chartered Spicejet aircraft.

This is perhaps the first time the Indian shooting squad has been accorded such a privilege of flying in a huge aircraft with almost each member getting a row to himself or herself. This was evident from pictures posted on social media by shooters and coaches.

The excitement is understandable. New Delhi, which was supposed to be the base camp, but it has been ravaged by the Corona virus second wave. With  the Dellhi Government also floundering and there being a shortage of oxygen, ICU beds, and more, the shooters were more than relieved to set up a base camp in Croatia. The Bio Bubble thought of at the Karni Singh ranges was not acceptable to most.

Given the fact Croatia is a smaller country and has a lesser population density plus good medical facilities, it  was smart thinking on part of all the stakeholders — Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India and the NRAI to fly out the precious shooters. They have been hyped up medals prospects. Adding a touch of reality to the departure for Croatia, NRAI President Raninder Singh tweeted how the team must be fully focussed and work towards winning medals in Tokyo.

Manu Bhaker waves to fans at the Karni Singh ranges during the ISSF World Cup. Photo credit G.Rajaraman

Speaking to this writer before leaving for Croatia, pistol shooter Manu Bhaker, who will be competing in three events, shared her thoughts. Her frame of mind is extremely positive. The 19-year-old cherubic lass is happy they will be training abroad.

 “My frame of mind at present is I am a bit excited and enjoying myself. Flying to Croatia is very good and I will be focussed on my preparations.  It is a very good initiative and we will  be getting good practice time before the big event (Olympics),” said Manu.

Asked on the weather conditions, Manu said, “the  temperature will be almost similar to Tokyo, so it is good.”

“I know the humidity in Tokyo will be different, so it’s not a problem. Overall, it is better than the hot summer months in India,” added Manu Bhaker.

For someone who has faced highs and lows, made headlines also for the wrong reasons and was needlessly dragged into controversies, Manu should do well abroad. She spoke of how fitness will be a major focus area for her in the coming weeks. “Yes, I will be focussing more on fitness. And my immediate focus will also be on the European championship in Croatia where we will get to compete,” said Manu.

Asked about being away from the family for a long period, Manu said it does not matter. “I have been away earlier, too, from my family for long periods. It is no big deal for me,” she said in her characteristic care-a-damn style.

Plenty has been written about who could be Manu’s coach in coming months. For years, she was training under Jaspal Rana. As Jaspal decided not to go to Croatia due to family reasons, Manu is now ready to train under anyone the NRAI decides upon.

“The NRAI is sending foreign coach Pavel Smirnov and Ved Prakash Pilaniya for the Croatia trip followed by the Olympics. It’s better the same set of coaches accompany us shooters to the Olympics. Clearly, it’s always better to practice and compete in matches under the same coaches,” said Manu emphatically.

There has been a bit of kite flying in sections of the media that Ronak Pandit will be Manu’s coach in Tokyo. That, however, is not true as the NRAI has not propped up his name nor has Manu asked for any coach.

At 19, she may be competing in her first Olympics. However, she has seen highs and lows with failure in the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang teaching her many lessons. After that, Manu has become mentally very strong and realised that toughness  in every sense will stand her in good stead in Tokyo. She is going to compete in three events.

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