CWG 2018: On debut, teenaged Manu Bhaker shoots gold, Heena Sindhu silver

NEW DELHI: At her maiden Commonwealth Games, teenage shooting prodigy Manu Bhaker has underlined her immense potential by winning gold in the women’s 10m air pistol event at Gold Coast, Australia while the seasoned campaigner Heena Sidhu has taken silver.
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Bhaker, a 16-year-old shooting sensation from Haryana, put in a tremendous performance on Sunday morning at the Belmont Shooting Centre as he held her own against older and more experienced shooters, firing a total of 240.9, a Commonwealth Games record. The 28-year-old Sidhu – recipient of the Times of India Sports Awards (TOISA) Shooter of the Year award in February – stormed back from the face of elimination in stunning manner to claim silver with a total effort of 234.
In the final, both Indian shooters were captivating to watch. Bhaker’s concentration was unwavering and her ability to hold her nerve all through punctuated her mental fortitude. As the competition was whittled down, Bhakur fired 10, 10.3, 10.6 and then a sensational 10.9 to put herself into the lead, taking her total well past Sidhu and Australia’s Elene Galiabovitch who took bronze with an effort of 214.9.
Bhaker’s final shot was 10.4, which confirmed her gold at the tender age of 16.
Not one to be shaken, Heena held her composure to mound a stirring comeback with shots of 10.3 and 10.2 as the competition was eliminated one by one. A final run of 10.1, 10.1, 9.1 and 9.7 saw her finish second.
During the qualification round earlier in the day, Bhaker – who shot her way to two successive gold medals (women’s 10m air pistol and the mixed team pistol event) at the ISSF World Cup this year – shot a qualifying CWG record score of 388/400 in her first appearance at the quadrennial games, with the experienced Heena shooting 379/400 to come in second.
In just two years since taking up shooting, Bhaker has marked her name in the India’s list of firsts. The women’s 10m air pistol gold at the ISSF World Cup earlier this year made her the youngest Indian shooter to take the top prize in a World Cup. Bhaker had tried her hand at other sports like boxing and martial arts before she eventually settled for shooting. In a short span of time, she defeated experienced campaigner Heena Sidhu at the 61st National Shooting Championship, a tournament where she won nine gold medals over two days. A month later, Bhaker set two other junior national records at the Khelo India games.
Bhaker sharpened her aim at the shooting range in the Universal Senior Secondary School, Goria village, Jhajjar district in Haryana, 125 km from Delhi. And with the long list of accolades she’s gained in the past couple of months, Bhaker has already set an example for others to follow. Many of her classmates have taken up the sport and are sharpening their aims at the range.
Heena had previous made two trips to the Commonwealth Games in 2010 – winning a gold in the team 10m air pistol event and silver in the individual 10m air pistol – and 2014 where she qualified for the 10m final but failed to leave a mark.