Also becomes the first Indian woman to ever win a gold at the extravaganza.
Manu Bhaker showed exemplary temperament to put behind her disappointing Asian Games campaign to become win India’s first shooting gold, and second overall at any Youth Olympic Games.
Manu Bhaker’ YOG gold: An incredible tale of redemption
Bhaker was always India’s best prospect for a gold at the Youth Olympic Games. Her selection as India’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, therefore, did not come as a surprise. But the Commonwealth gold winner seemed to be in some sort of a slump for the past few months. She returned empty-handed at both the Asian Games and Changwon World Championship. Her father, Ramkishen Bhaker, informed about her disappointment after the Asian Games, stating how “unusually dull” she was after her poor show.
“She doesn’t like losing, and more than that, she was gutted that she let herself and the country down at the Asian Games,” Ramkishen says.
Bhaker had qualified with an Asian Games record points, only to falter into the finals as she finished sixth. It seemed as though she was buckling under the weight of India’s high expectations. Or was she overrated?
But Bhaker was certainly not a flash in the pan. She is one of those athletes who will not take a no for a failure. She made amends for the harrowing misses in both the games in the best possible manner, by putting a tip-top performance on a much global stage of Youth Olympics. In the process, she justified India’s high hopes from her.
How the events unfolded
Manu Bhaker had topped the qualifying round easily, with a score of 576. Those included a series of 95, 96, 96, 96, 95, 98 scores. Her immediate opponent had a score of 569, showing the gulf in Bhaker and her fellow opponent’s performances.
Bhaker began the 10m Pistol Shooting finals with a 10.0 and followed it with a 10.1 and 10.4 thereafter. At the end of Stage 1, she led the eight-woman final with 99.3, after a sequence that included seven 10+ scores.
Although Bhaker started the second stage, the elimination round, with two 9.8s, she followed them up with a 10.1 and 9.9. Those scores helped her maintain the lead over her Asian compatriot, Thailand’s Kanyakorn Hirunphoem.
Thereafter, she led most of the time, with a brief slip to a second place. She won the event unanimously, with competition rarely giving her any significant challenge.
As a result, Manu Bhaker became India’s first shooter and also the first Indian woman to win a Youth Olympic gold.
The precious gold marked another success story in India’s attempts to develop young talent, as the country looks to boost its performance in International events.
Here are select reactions on Twitter after Bhaker’s historic feat:
— Preity G Zinta (@realpreityzinta) October 10, 2018
Proud of India's daughter Manu Bhaker. Your victory at Youth Olympic Games is a reflection that our girls are challenging age-old mindsets that are the biggest impediment in development. You are the change that will ensure a free, safe and educated world for all our girls.
— Kailash Satyarthi (@k_satyarthi) October 10, 2018
— Vikram Sathaye (@vikramsathaye) October 10, 2018
Other successes at YOG
Elsewhere, Indian Men’s hockey team thrashed Kenya 7-1 in their third Hockey 5s group stage match.
Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath won their singles matches in the group stage of Table Tennis event. India’s rising badminton prodigy, Lakshya Sen, won his first game against Ukraine’s Danilo Bosniuk in two straight sets of 23-21 and 21-8.
India now has won 5 medals, 2 gold, and 3 silver, catapulting them into the 4th place of the YOG medal tally. They are superseded only by Russia (13 G, 2 S, 1 B), Hungary (7 G, 1 S, 1 B) and Italy (2 G, 4 S, 6 B).