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    Bhakti Sharma’s World Record steeled by sweat and tears

    By Robin Bose
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    Bhakti Sharma - indianshooting.com

    Long before para shooter Bhakti Sharma embarked on a career in the sport, her fascination for guns had been captured in numerous family photographs.

    Despite the physical challenges, paramount being the difficulty in standing erect, Bhakti loved to pose with her grandfather, Deep Chand, and his 312 bore gun.

    Bhakti poses with her grandfather Deep Chand’s 312 bore gun.

    The credit goes to the father, Yogender, that he spotted the initial interest in Bhakti as an opportunity and nurtured her talent to a level that the 17-year-old holds the junior world record.

    But, chasing excellence has proved to be a tough proposition, requiring both daughter and father to delve deep into their reservoir of determination. But as it goes, the sweat and tears have started to bear fruit.

    Performing on the big stage

    After the gold in 10m air pistol SH1 at last year’s World Ability Games in Thailand, Bhakti made it one more celebration of the undying human spirit at the Changwon World Cup this April.

    The outing in Korea is by far the biggest of her career as Bhakti claimed silver with a junior world record of 234.2 on the back of a 559 in qualification, also a junior world record in qualification. The silver added to the gold she bagged in the mixed team event with Nihal Singh.

    Bhakti poses with her silver medal at the Para Shooting World Cup in Changwon, Korea – WSPS

    At home too, Bhakti has been in the news with gold at the first Khelo India Para Games in Delhi last December.

    Struggles all through

    The success on the world stage often leaves Yogender in disbelief, having witnessed Bhakti’s struggles early on.

    Given her frame, getting up from the bed was a Himalayan task, but both daughter and father were intent on surmounting this one and numerous other challenges that crossed their path.

    Numerous sessions of physiotherapy were coupled with indigenous therapies, some of which did not go down well within the household. It was the use of animal fat to massage the weak limbs to help Bhakti gain strength. “A lot of people said that being a Brahmin I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I was certain that I would do anything for my daughter’s well-being,” said Yogender.

    Bhakti with her parents Deepali and Yogender.

    The lockdown in 2020 came as a challenge and boon for the family. A month before the pandemic struck with full force, Yogender got Bhakti enrolled at a private shooting range near their house in East Delhi.

    Bhakti was yet to find her bearing when the world shut down, confining Bhakti once again. For a month, the trip from her house to the shooting range had been like liberation, but the latest challenge had her innovating again.

    The time away from the range was spent strengthening the body, with particular focus on improving Bhakti’s holding and posture.

    When normalcy returned, the fruits showed up as Bhakti displayed marked improvement at the shooting range.

    Striking a balance

    The hours of practice did not mean Bhakti neglected her studies. Initially, the Amar Jyoti School played a crucial part by allowing her the leeway to chase her dreams, and after finishing class 8th from there, Bhakti enrolled in the open learning system.

    Bhakti with her mother Deepali.

    She would have finished school, but when it came down to choosing between her class 12 board exams and striving for glory at the Changwon World Cup in April, Bhakti chose the latter.

    The move paid off as the trip to Korea turned out to be career changing. Never mind if she missed three exams, as another opportunity will come her way soon.

    Bedrocks of support

    Not only does Bhakti have a constant companion in Yogender, her father also doubles up as a “watchdog”, always on the vigil to ensure that his daughter does not suffer a fall and damage an already delicate frame.

    The years of communicating in sign language have made Yogender an expert in deciphering Bhakti’s messages, which is so critical on competition days.

    Bhakti with her father Yogender Sharma.

    JP Nautiyal, Chairman and Chief Coach, Sports Technical Committee, Paralympic Committee of India, has been another source of encouragement over the years with his words and actions.

    It is on the back of performances in Bangkok and Changwon that Yogender is certain that Bhakti can win a medal at the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympics. “We are working hard, and should she get a chance, Bhakti will return with a medal for the country,” he said.

    The emotion is unmistakable, and why not. Rearing Bhakti from a despondent state and transforming her into a world beater is no mean feat, for which the father and daughter should be immensely proud.

    Also Read: Bhakti, Sanjeev lead India’s medal sweep in Changwon