Brilliant Bhaker shoots gold

Heena wins silver in air pistol, Ravi Kumar picks up air rifle bronze

Brilliant Bhaker shoots gold

Manu Bhaker was in a league of her own as she shattered two records en route to adding the Commonwealth Games gold medal to her growing list of achievements in the 10m air pistol event here on Sunday.

The 16-year-old Bhaker's calm demeanour belied her age as she shot a CWG finals record of 240.9 to finish well ahead of her senior teammate Heena Sidhu, who staged a stirring comeback to aggregate 234 for the silver at the Belmont Shooting Centre.

In the end, Bhaker finished a whopping 6.9 points ahead of Sidhu.

India also won a bronze through Ravi Kumar (224.1) in the men's 10m air rifle event after surviving a shoot-off, while Saniya Sheikh had to be content with a fourth-place finish in the women's skeet finals.

Deepak Kumar finished sixth in the 10m air rifle, while Maheshwari Chauhan could not make the skeet final.

Bhaker led throughout the two stages in her maiden Commonwealth Games outing. The previous qualification record was 386 by Dina Aspandiyarova of Australia.

The bronze medal went to Australia's Elena Galiabovitch who ended with 214.9.

Bhaker was the overwhelming favourite to win the event, having bagged multiple gold medals at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico and the subsequent Junior World Cup in Sydney.

The event in Mexico was also a maiden appearance for the young girl from Jhajjar district of Haryana.

Sidhu too did well to win silver after she was on the verge of elimination at one stage. She had also won a silver at the Delhi Games in 2010.

Entering the Games after being embroiled in a controversy over the Sports Ministry's initial decision to refuse accreditation to her husband-cum-coach Ronak Pandit, Sidhu had a point to prove and she did just that.

In the 24-shot final, Bhaker began from where she left off in qualifying, going 1.5 points clear of Galiabovitch after the first five-shot series itself. She never looked back and won by a comfortable margin.

Bhaker remained composed despite her achievement.

"Shooting is an uncomplicated sport, take aim and shoot. That's why it's important not to think too much. If you think too much, then it becomes complex," she explained, sounding wise beyond her age.

The teenager, who is the youngest Indian to claim a World Cup gold, chose to unwind with a game of table tennis after returning to the Games Village and when asked whether she was expecting the record-shattering performance, merely broke into a soft giggle.

"I had been working on my technique for a long time. I just got that right, rest is a result of that. I didn't have any targets for today. I was just shooting, I am just happy," she said.

"In fact, I never set myself targets, what's the point of that? Ultimately your technique has to work, it worked for me today," she reasoned.

She was expected to fetch the gold today and she did that but ask her whether being under the spotlight played on her mind, she came up with another philosophical response.

"As I said, the more you think, the more things become complex. So it's never a good idea to think too much. Just do the best you can and forget about everything else," she said.

Done with her CWG campaign, the shooter, who once dabbled in boxing, said she is now looking ahead to the World Cup in Korea from April 20.

"There is no time to celebrate, tomorrow I go back to my training for the World Cup. No breathing space there," she signed off.

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