India was at the top of the medals tally in shooting at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. The Indian shooting contingent brought home a total of 16 medals, 7 more than host nation Australia who were second in the tally. Two Shooting Sensation Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker grabbed everyone’s attention.   

The Indian shooters won 7 golds, 4 silvers and 5 bronzes. Among others, there were two young teenage shooters who did the country proud by clinching gold medals. They were Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker.

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Teenage Shooting Sensation Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker at a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Early lives of Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker

Both Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker were born in Haryana in 2002. Bhanwala was born at the Kasandi village located in the Sonipat district of Haryana while Bhaker was born in the Jhajjar district. Both excelled at sports from a very young age.

Bhanwala excelled at Pentathlon from a tender age. He even represented India at the U-12 modern Pentathlon World Championships in 2013 and at the Asian modern Pentathlon Championships in 2015.

Out of the five sports, shooting was Bhanwala’s absolute favourite. He began to focus primarily on shooting and moved to Delhi in 2014 to receive better coaching in the sport.

Manu Bhaker excelled in a number of sports during her childhood, namely, boxing, tennis and skating for which she received a lot of national medals. She later decided to pursue competitive shooting.

Early successes of Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker

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Anish performed exceedingly well at the junior circuit.

Anish Bhanwala won 5 medals at the 2017 Junior World Shooting Championships, 2 gold medals, 2 silver medals and a bronze medal. One of Bhanwala’s gold medals included the 25 metre standard pistol tournament where he created a new junior world record in the discipline.

Manu Bhaker first tasted of international success at the 2017 Asian Junior Shooting Championships where she bagged the silver medal. At the 2017 National Shooting Championships, Bhaker won 9 gold medals and also defeated multiple-time World Champion Heena Sidhu in the 10 m air pistol final, scoring 242.3 against Sidhu’s 240.8.

At the 2017 Commonwealth Shooting Championships, Anish Bhanwala clinched the silver medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol discipline, losing to Australia’s Sergei Evglevski.

2018 – The Best year for Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker

Manu Bhaker competed at the ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara while Bhanwala took part in the ISSF Junior World Cup at Sydney.

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Manu Bhaker won the gold medal in the 10 metre air pistol discipline with a score of 237.5.

Bhanwala won the gold medal in the 25 metre rapid fire pistol discipline and won the silver medal in the 25 metre rapid fire pistol team event alongside Anhad Jawanda and Adarsh Singh.

A few weeks after the World Cup, came the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast. Both Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker were taking part in their respected preferred disciplines.

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Anish is the youngest shooter ever to win medal for India at CWG.

In the 25m rapid fire pistol event, Bhanwala won the qualifying round with a score of 580. In the final round, Bhanwala was leading right from the beginning with his only competition being Sergei Evglevski, the same guy who defeated him in the final of last year’s Commonwealth Shooting Championships.

When the final round came, it was all down to Bhanwala and Evglevski. Bhanwala had scored 25 while Evglevski scored 24.

Bhanwala went on to score a five to end with 30 while Evglevski ended with 28.

Anish Bhanwala thus not only became the youngest Indian to win a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal but also avenged his defeat at the 2017 Commonwealth Shooting Championships. His score of 30 in the final is a games record.

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Gold medallist Manu Bhaker celebrates after her event.

In the 10 metre air pistol category, Manu Bhaker came first in the qualifying round with a score of 388 which was a games record in the qualifying round. She was 9 points ahead of favourite Heena Sidhu.

In the final, Manu Bhaker was sailing over all her opponents as she assured herself of a medal. The closest competition of the final was for the silver medal between Heena Sidhu and Australian Elena Galiabovitch.

The final bout of the elimination round was between Bhaker and Sidhu. By this time, Bhaker was almost sure to win the gold medal as her score was 220.7 compared to Sidhu’s 215.2.

Only a miracle would see Sidhu win the gold.

Bhaker scored a 9.8 followed by a 10.4 in the final bout while Sidhu could only score 9.1 and 9.7 and the former won the gold.

Both Anish Bhanwala and Manu Bhaker have done extraordinarily well for India recently and have a bright future ahead. Provided they keep on performing this way, they might someday clinch an Olympic medal for India someday.

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Reading, Writing and indulging in sports activities have been Neel's passion since he was a child. He grew up playing various sports and knew that it was something he wanted to stay in touch with. After completing his graduation, he narrowed his focus on writing. In his leisure time, he likes to read books and chill with his dog.

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