Do it yourself: Manu Bhaker encourages self-belief

The shooter relied on the basics to excel in school and get a national call-up.

By Subhayan Dutta ·

Though Manu Bhaker trains under four-time Asian Games gold medallist and Dronacharya Award nominee Jaspal Rana now, the shooting protégé revealed that she didn't always have such guidance.

In fact, soon after taking up competitive shooting in school as a 14-year-old, Manu Bhaker was left without a coach to teach her for a significant spell early in her career.

“I had first started training in school where my coach was Anil Jakhar, but he left the school after some time and I was left to myself for a year,” the six-time ISSF World gold medallist disclosed in an Instagram Live session with former Indian wrestler Sangram Singh.

To continue shooting as a teenager without regular guidance was a challenge but a confident Manu Bhaker carried on her practice.

“Mostly, students get demoralised while practicing without a coach but I knew all the basics,” she said.

“I knew how to shoot, where to shoot and how to pull the trigger. I worked hard on myself for a year and kept telling myself ‘I can do it’.

“I kept competing every other day in school with the students there and gradually, I got noticed and was selected in the Indian team,” the 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist recalled.

Though Manu Bhaker soon started competing at the international level, the 18-year-old reveals she didn’t have an individual coach even then.

However, the Haryana shooter’s talent and with little help from the junior shooting team coach, she started excelling in no time.

“Whenever I had problems, I used to call the junior team coach.,” she said.

The first big highlight of Manu Bhaker’s talent came when she was only 15, clinching the silver medal at the 2017 Asian Junior Championships.

The teenager then followed it up with a win over veteran Indian shooter Heena Sidhu at the National Games. She hasn’t looked back since then.

“I’d like to say one thing,” she continued. “It’s not like if you don’t have a coach, you can’t train well. You should never get demoralised if you don’t have a coach. If you try, you will figure out that you can be successful.”

Bolstering the mental game

Recently nominated for the Arjuna Award alongside compatriots Saurabh Chaudhary, Abhishek Verma and Elavenil Valarivan, Manu Bhaker also threw some light on her gradual preparation for the Olympics.

And the shooter revealed, most of her training now is limited to strengthening her mental aspects.

“I practice more to keep a particular mindset as there is no competition around now,” Manu Bhaker said.

“The main objective is how to keep my focus and give my best without getting distracted,” she added.

And the element that helps the Commonwealth Games gold medallist keep her focus to a large extent during the tournaments is music.

“I listen to music almost all the time during competitions. It keeps me from getting distracted by my opponents’ score.

“During competitions, the focus is only on myself and analysing my game continuously,” she said.