New Delhi: The sensational Manu Bhaker, all of 16, shot her way to a second successive gold medal in a mixed team event as India consolidated their position at the top in the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Partnering Om Prakash Mitharval, the Indian teenager clinched the 10m air pistol mixed team title, a day after she won the women’s 10m air pistol individual gold on what is turning out to be a memorable senior World Cup debut.
The 11th standard student could be the youngest ever to win senior World Cup gold medals for India, though the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) could not confirm.
Also, the duo of Deepak Kumar and Mehuli Ghosh won the country its sixth medal of the competition – a bronze in the 10m air rifle mixed team event.
Deepak and Mehuli shot 435.1 in the five-team final, finishing behind the Romanian pair of Alin Moldoveanu and Laura-Georgeta Coman who shot 498.4 for silver. China’s Xu Hong and Chen Keduo won gold in a world record score of 502.0.
But it was Bhaker, the girl from Jhajjar, Haryana, who stunned the shooting world with a second successive gold in as many days.
For someone who took to shooting just a little over two years ago, winning two gold medals in a global event of this magnitude would easily qualify as some achievement.
Shooting happened to her by chance after a brush with contact sports (boxing, martial arts) and Bhaker has already stamped her class in the tournaments she competed in.
Asked about her penchant for winning medals with record-breaking feats, the unassuming pistol shooter said, “It just happens. I don’t think about them. At times I don’t even know what the records are.
“I am grateful to all my coaches for their advice and the hours they have put in to hone my technique,” Manu added.
Last December, she won the 10m air pistol event, outclassing the highly-experienced Heena Sidhu at the 61st National Shooting Championship in Thiruvananthapuram where she broke Heena’s long-standing national record.
She won a staggering 15 medals, including nine gold, during the tournament.
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 and the rest is history.
On the third day of competitions in the Mexican city, once again both Indian entries in the 10m air pistol mixed team event made it through to the medal rounds.
Bhaker and Om Prakash shot 770 in qualification to be placed second behind the German husband and wife pair of Christian and Sandra Reitz who shot 777 for a qualifications world record score.
Mahima Agrawal and Shahzar Rizvi shot 763 to be positioned fourth and made it to the five-team final round from among the 16 competing teams.
In the final, there were three pairs in contention from the very beginning – India’s Bhaker and Om Prakash, team Reitz of Germany and the French pair of Celine Goberville and Florian Fouquet.
After a see-saw battle between the three, the Indian and the German pair pulled ahead of the French duo decisively after 38 shots, with the Germans ahead of the Indians.
With the final six shots remaining, the Germans were ahead of the Indians by 0.1 but Bhaker and Om Prakash finished strong to clinch the battle after 48 shots, almost a point ahead of the Germans.
The final scores in favour of the Indians read 476.1 to 475.2.
Mahima Agrawal and Shahzar Rizvi finished fourth with a score of 372.4 in the finals.
In the women’s trap, India’s Seema Tomar was the best finisher, shooting 111 in qualifying to end in 15th spot.
Shreyasi Singh shot 106 to finish 22nd while Shagun Chowdhary shot 101 to be placed 26th.
Also at the end of the first day of the qualification round in men’s trap, India’s Kynan Chenai shot 49 out of 50 to lie in sixth place. Zoravar Singh Sandhu shot 46 to lie 28th while Manavjit Singh Sandhu shot 42 to be in 47th place.
India’s medal count stood at three gold and four bronze medals for a total of seven podium finishes.