Communication is key aspect in a team sport but Manu Bhaker believes that remaining “disconnected” with partner Saurabh Chaudhary has been the key to their golden run in four successive ISSF World Cups.
The teenagers will be gunning for a podium finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics having already booked a quota place for the country.
“We are not very connected. We are two very different things (individuals),” said the the 17-year-old Manu when asked about her recipe of success having won her fourth mixed World Cup gold in Rio de Janeiro, last week.
At 17, one is free from fear of failure which is a common thread binding the teenage duo as they simply like to concentrate on their individual performances.
“We don’t talk much. We are both on our own. We just focus on our individual performance. He doesn’t give much thought on my performance and neither do I think about his. I think that makes us fearless and we shoot for ourselves and perhaps because of that, we are doing well,” Manu explained.
Manu will be among the 14 Indian shooters, who will represent the country at the year-ending World Cup Finals, scheduled to be held in Putian, China between November 17 and 23.
“I thought I will not be selected for World Cup final as I didn’t win any individual medals this year. I won all the mixed team gold with Saurabh. So it was unexpected but now that I have been selected, I am so happy and excited to go for the World Finals. I will work hard to do well,” she said.
Last year, Manu had won a series of gold medals, which include the Guadalajara World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics at Buenos Aires.
There were also disappointments in store when she suffered a pistol malfunction during the 25m Rapid Fire pistol final at the Munich World Cup, forcing her to forfeit.
She also returned empty handed from the Asian Games after participating in three events — mixed, 25m air pistol and 10m air pistol. Interestingly, Manu had Games record at the Asiad in Palembang, with a record score of 593 in the qualification round of 25m Air pistol event.
“I think it is like a heart beat. It goes up and down and it is all part of life. The malfunction at Munich World Cup that was one moment where I felt very low. It was like someone took (snatched) away the medal in-front of my eyes. It was heartbreaking,” said Manu, who had secured a quota in the 10m pistol event after disappointment in 25m rapid fire pistol at Munich.
“Another such low moment was the Asian Games, I was fifth in the final and it was very upsetting. I had high expectations from myself and everything fall apart. Jaspal sir helped me during that phase.”
Interestingly, Manu couldn’t win an individual medal at the four World Cups this year.
Asked how she analyses her performance this year, she said: “I think it has been very progressive from Delhi to China, to Munich and now Rio. I did quite good, so I believe it was a successful year and I am happy with my performance. Great to end the way, we did in the last World up of the year,” she said.
Manu said that she now wants to work on the physical fitness part.
“I will just continue what I have been doing. It is basically all about improving the technique and physical fitness.”
The Tokyo Olympics is just seven months away and Manu believes she can produce a much better performance at the Games.
“Olympics is a dream for all sportsperson. I hope it becomes my best moment of my life. Anything can happen. I don’t know what is destined for me. If I have the blessings and I can go on to win a medal, it will be the best moment of my life,” she said.
While she won a quota place, it belongs to the country and not the individual. The youngster is well aware and knows that nearing Olympics, she will have to hit the peak.
“I think I can do better at Olympics. The quota that I won is for India and I might not also go. My scores have been good and I’ll improve as the Olympics approaches. I just want to put in my work.