Manu Bhaker: Never settle for less and don’t lose focus, says India’s shooting star to young girls

India’s shooting Olympian Manu Bhaker never let any setback become a hurdle on her way to success. This is her story of becoming the next Indian champion.
Manu Bhaker
Shooting star Manu Bhaker hits the bull’s eye in her message to young girls. Image courtesy: Manu Bhaker
Arushi Bidhuri Updated: 5 Apr 2023, 13:07 pm IST
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“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail”! This couldn’t be more true for someone like Manu Bhaker. At a young age of 21, Bhaker has been through rampant success, disappointing failures, and even criticism. But the Indian Olympian never let some failures stop her from turning the fortune wheel in her favour. Since then, the Indian airgun shooter has broken many records and won over 30 medals (25 gold medals) in International Shooting Sport Federation-recognised events. In a latest feat, she ended her two-year medal drought by winning a bronze medal in the Bhopal leg of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) recently.

From shining at the Olympics to being a flagbearer of the Indian contingent at the 2018 Youth Olympics, she has made the country proud on multiple occasions.

Shooting was fate

Born in the district of Jhajjar, Haryana, Bhaker always had big dreams and relentless determination to battle the odds. She stepped into the world of shooting around the age of 13 after trying her hand at a couple of different sports.

“I was drawn to contact sports such as boxing, martial arts, Karate, etc from the beginning. My journey began with boxing, and then I moved on to Karate. I also tried kabaddi and badminton. When I was in the 10th grade, I noticed the shooting range in my school, and I tried it for a month. During this period, I really enjoyed shooting, but it was different from what I loved – contact sports,” Bhaker tells Health Shots in an interview

The step away from contact sports made Bhaker realize her interest in a sport that required her to remain calm and composed, very different from what she loved. “You have to focus on the target and shoot without expressing anything. The change was difficult, but I adapted well to shooting.”

While the transition may have been a challenge, there was no looking back from there. Seven years into shooting, she won the Commonwealth Games medal in 2018 and a gold medal at the Youth Olympics. She even won national championships and world cups.

Parents: Her pillar of strength

We all want our parents to bask in the glory of our success and feel proud. Nothing feels better than making them proud and feeling that our achievements honour their sacrificial efforts as parents. For that, we try to seek our parent’s support, and thankfully Bhaker received it in abundance.

Manu Bhaker
Manu Bhaker: The Indian shooting Olympian who made the country proud. Image courtesy: Instagram/Manu Bhaker

“My parents have been supportive of everything I do. This has been a great factor that helps me perform better, maintain my mental well-being and boosts my confidence. I have been lucky to have their support to help me perform without any mental pressure and remain focused on my game,” she says.

No room for partiality or sexism in shooting

One might think that misogyny in sports is more prominent, but Bhaker thinks that things have changed. “Honestly, there is some sort of partiality or sexism that may exist in sports like boxing, karate or kabaddi. However, there is no sexism in shooting. I haven’t noticed any partiality from the federation, team, or anyone else so far. So, I would say that there is no sexism in shooting, at least based on my experience,” she says.

Bhaker also didn’t face any other bias when it came to her age. “The main reason why I continue shooting is that this is a completely impartial game and a transparent sport. There’s no division based on age either. I was 16 when I represented India in the Commonwealth Games in the senior category!”

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Mental strength is important, says Manu Bhaker

In 2020, Manu Bhaker got a chance to represent India at Tokyo Olympics, but things didn’t go as planned. She couldn’t win a medal, but she didn’t dwell on the defeat. She didn’t let the weight of angry voices bring her down, and so she took a break to focus on her mental health.

“Mental health is the most important element when it comes to shooting. In fact, I believe that you can perform your best when you are at your best mentally. Mental health is not something you easily cope with because you can’t win all competitions – you win some, lose some. You have to recognize the balance between how to cope if you lose and how to do things properly if you win.”

In fact, she recommends people take up airgun shooting as a hobby because it requires a lot of focus and a clear mind. “Since you use so much of your brain, you will end up forgetting everything going on around it,” she quips!

Manu Bhaker
Never settle for less, says India’s shooting Olympian Manu Bhaker. Image courtesy: Instagram/Manu Bhaker

Emotions can be challenging

Being emotionally intelligent is key to performing better at what you do, and Bhaker doesn’t let her emotional attachment to the sport sabotage her bigger plans in any way.

“One of the biggest challenges athletes face is emotional engagement. Getting emotionally attached to the sport too much can become unhealthy at times and turn toxic because we can’t win all competitions. Sometimes we do well, sometimes we excel, and sometimes we perform average. So, emotional detachment to a certain level is important for all of us to give our best.”

Manu Bhaker gives a message to aspiring women athletes

“Never settle for less. It may feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or difficult at times, but don’t give up. Work harder towards your goal so that you can feel empowered and become independent,” she asserts.

Manu Bhaker even requests parents to avoid holding back or stopping their kids from pursuing what they want to pursue. “If you want to push them, push them to achieve their goals and support them to help them achieve new heights,” she concludes!

(Manu Bhaker is nominated for the Health Shots She Slays Awards, presented by Ambience Group and Powered by Vedanta Group, in the Women in Wellness Coach (Nutrition). To vote for her or to review our other nominees, please click here!)

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About the Author

Arushi Bidhuri is a journalist with 7 years of experience in writing, editing, and conceptualizing story ideas across different genres, including health and wellness, lifestyle, politics, beauty, fashion, and more. Arushi has a strong connection in the industry that helps her write concise and original stories as she believes in working towards writing pieces that can enlighten people. ...Read More

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