Manu Bhaker won India’s second gold of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 on Tuesday 9 October, firing her way to victory in the women’s 10m air pistol competition, held at Parque Sarmiento. Russia’s Iana Enina took the silver ahead of Georgia’s Nino Khutsiberidze.
Bhaker scored 236.5 points to edge out Enina by a mere 0.6 points, with the Russian scoring heavily on her last two shots but just failing to close the gap. Khutsiberidze scored 214.6 points, having led after 20 shots only to then shoot an 8.3 and a 9.8 and suffer elimination. “I was just thinking of taking each shot at a time and I wasn’t even looking at the screen,” said Bhaker. “Then all of a sudden it was all over and I said, ‘Oh my God, I won it.’ It feels great.”
After collecting six silvers and two bronzes at Singapore 2010 and only a silver and a bronze at Nanjing 2014, India already have two golds and three silvers to their name at Buenos Aires 2018 and are well on course for their biggest haul of YOG medals yet.
A 10m air pistol champion at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara (MEX) and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast (AUS), the 16-year-old Bhaker led for most of the competition stage, having also topped the qualification round from Enina and China’s Kaiman Lu, who eventually placed sixth.
“I began the year in the best possible way by winning the World Cup in Mexico, but then I slipped up at the World Championships in Republic of Korea and felt a bit down about myself. I was nervous throughout the whole competition.”
Those nerves did not show when it mattered most, however, as she held off Enina’s strong challenge. “I started shooting at school at the age of three and it was my father who introduced me to the sport,” explained Bhaker. “There are a lot of shooting enthusiasts in India, where it’s a very popular. I was hoping India would pick up at least two shooting medals, but now we’ve got three. We might get a few more too. It’s amazing.
India’s other shooting medals to date came courtesy of Shahu Tushar Mane and Mehuli Ghosh, who collected silvers in the men’s and women’s 10m air rifle respectively. “I don’t think there is a secret for the India shooting team’s success here in Buenos Aires,” said Bhaker as she clutched her gold. “I think it’s just the result of our hard work.”
Giving her view ion her silver, Enina said: “At one point when I was facing early elimination I said to myself, ‘Get your act together. Get a grip and do what you know best’, and things improved from there.” Voicing her praise for Bhaker, she added: “We know each other well and we’ve competed in different competitions. She is a fantastic shooter and deserved to win today.”