At the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, Manu had a weapon malfunction during the women’s 10m air pistol qualification. In the middle of the second series, the lever of her pistol, which needs to be pulled and pushed to load a pellet, came off. While that was being fixed, a fault in the electronic circuit of the pistol was also reportedly discovered.
It required Manu to leave the firing point after the technical bench recognised a weapon malfunction. The lever from her back-up pistol was used as a replacement. But all this cost her “22 minutes” from the hour and 15 minutes in which a shooter has to fire 60 shots in the qualification round.
Lack of time towards the end possibly put Manu off and she scored an 8 on her 59th shot. She followed it up with a 10 for a total of 575. But it still kept Manu out of the top-eight bracket and she finished 12th. India’s other shooter in the event, world No. 1 Yashaswini Deswal, ended up 13th with a score of 574. Manu’s current world rank in the event is No. 2.
It wasn’t for the first time that Manu suffered due to a weapon malfunction. It happened to her in the 2019 Munich World Cup as well, though that was in the 25m Pistol Final.
For all d people who are quick to judge that Manu succumbed to pressure. I just got to know what happened to her eq… https://t.co/y4tAtwH1W6
— Heena SIDHU (@HeenaSidhu10) 1627180623000
“Papa, dekhti hu kab tak kismat mujh se naraz rehti hai (let me see for how long can fate not be on my side),” Olympic debutant Manu told her father over the phone from Tokyo after the unfortunate miss.
“Can’t fight destiny,” said Manu’s father Ramkishan Bhaker talking to TimesofIndia.com. “Maybe destiny doesn’t want (an Olympic medal for Manu) at the moment, but she says ‘mein to ziddi hu (I am stubborn), tomorrow never dies’.
“She called and said ‘Papa tension mat lo’. I will keep at it.”
Manu Bhaker with coach Ronak Pandit (L) reacts after the 10m Air Pistol Women’s Qualification. (PTI Photo)
Tagged as one of the favourites among the heavyweights in India’s 15-member shooting squad, Manu Bhaker still has two more events left to play at the Games — the 25m Pistol and 10m air pistol mixed team event alongside Saurabh Chaudhary.
“She lost 22 minutes during the qualification,” her father Ramkishan Bhaker further told TimesofIndia.com, talking about the malfunction. “Some are saying 17, 18, 6 minutes; but actually the repair work took 22 minutes.”
“Firstly, she was attended to for three minutes after she raised her hand to get the attention of a range official. Then the Jury recognised the malfunction and allowed the pistol to be fixed,” he claimed.
Break-The electronic trigger of Manu Bhaker’s pistol had a circuit malfunction in the middle of the second series.… https://t.co/b8gipVk7Md
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) 1627177380000
At the international level, shooters carry a backup weapon in case of such eventualities. However, most are not keen to switch weapons during a match. The same is true for Manu. She and the Indian coaches in Tokyo decided to replace the faulty part from her back-up pistol.
Once the grip was taken off for that, a problem with the circuit was also discovered, while the clock at the qualification round kept ticking.
“The trigger had stopped working due to overheating of the circuit,” said Manu’s father. “All this repair work left her with little time (towards the end of the qualifying round).”
Far from ideal for the Olympic debutant 💔🙁Here’s hoping luck is on Manu Bhaker’s side in the Mixed Team and 25m A… https://t.co/oJAA050YbS
— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) 1627220823000
Former India shooter Heena Sidhu, who is wife of current national pistol coach Ronak Pandit who is also in Tokyo with the team, confirmed the same in a video on social media.
The question here arises – when the shooters have a back-up weapon, why don’t they simply take it out and start firing with it? Is there a lack of confidence in the second pistol because they don’t fire much with it during practice?
“The back-up weapon has the same grip (as the first-choice pistol), but the feel is not the same,” said Manu’s father.
She was so close that if that last shot was an inner 10 she wud have been in the finals even after going through a… https://t.co/zi82jpqbj5
— Heena SIDHU (@HeenaSidhu10) 1627180623000
“But it’s a lesson,” he said. “Shooters must practice as much with their second weapon as they do with their main one,” he further told TinesofIndia.com.
Manu uses a Morini air pistol. “Both are new weapons, 2020 models,” said Ramkishan.
However, a source told TimesofIndia.com that Yashaswini and Abhishek Verma both trained with their alternate pistols as well at the camp in Zagreb ahead of the Olympics.
“What do you have the back-up pistol for?” the source pointed. “I don’t know about her (Manu), but both Yashaswini and Abhishek also trained with their back-up pistol in Zagreb.
“Changing the pistol (in a match) shouldn’t be a problem because you are supposed to do that (in case of a malfunction). That’s the only reason why you have a back-up.”
All said and done, Manu would be best advised to leave behind what has happened, as she has two more medal opportunities coming up to resurrect India’s shooting campaign that has failed to deliver so far despite so much promise.
Saurabh Chaundary is the lone shooter thus far to have qualified for a final (men’s 10m air pistol), but could only finish seventh. Abhishek Verma didn’t make the cut.
India drew a blank in the individual air rifle events as well. Elavenil Valarivan & Apurvi Chandela and Divyansh Singh Panwar & Deepak Kumar couldn’t qualify for the finals of women’s and men’s 10m air rifle competitions, respectively.
Having said that, most of these names are young shooters and will only grow into experienced Olympians at future Games and possibly win individual medals.
Let’s not forget, it took three Olympics for shooting legends Abhinav Bindra and Gagan Narang to wear an Olympic medal.