Never settle for less and never lose focus, says shooting Olympian Manu Bhaker

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in getting up every time we fail”! This could not be more true for someone like Manu Bhakar. At the age of 21, Bhakar has experienced tremendous success, disappointing failure and even criticism. But the Indian Olympian never let a few setbacks stop him from turning the wheel of fortune in his favour. Since then, the Indian airgun shooter has broken many records and won 30 medals (25 gold medals) in events recognized by the International Shooting Sports Federation. In a recent achievement, she recently ended her two-year medal drought by winning a bronze medal at the Bhopal leg of the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF).

Shooting star Manu Bhakar hits the bull's eye with his message to girls.  (file photo)
Shooting star Manu Bhakar hits the bull’s eye with his message to girls. (file photo)

From shining at the Olympics to being the flag bearer of the Indian contingent at the 2018 Youth Olympics, she has made the country proud on many occasions.

Shooting was luck

Born in Haryana’s Jhajjar district, Bhaker always had big dreams and an unrelenting determination to fight against problems. After trying her hand at various sports, she entered the world of shooting at the age of 13.

“I was attracted to contact sports like boxing, martial arts, karate etc. from the beginning. My journey started with boxing, then I moved on to karate. I also tried kabaddi and badminton. When I was in 10th grade, I saw a shooting range at my school, and I tried it for a month. During this period, I really enjoyed shooting, but it was different from what I liked – contact sport,” says Bhakar in an interview with Health Shots.

The move away from contact sports made Bhaker realize his interest in a sport that required him to remain calm and composed, which is very different from what he prefers. “You have to focus on the target and shoot without expressing anything. The change was difficult, but I adapted well to shooting.

Parents: His pillar of strength

We all want our parents to feel the glory and pride of our success. Nothing feels better than making them proud and feeling that our achievements honor their sacrificial efforts as parents. For that, we try to seek the help of our parents, and thankfully Bhakar got it in abundance.

“My parents have supported me in everything I do. This is a great factor that helps me perform better, maintain my mental health and boost my confidence. I am fortunate to have their support to help me perform without any mental pressure and focus on my game,” she said.

There is no room for favoritism or sexism in shooting

One might think that ugliness is more prominent in sports, but Bhaker thinks things have changed. “To be honest, sports like boxing, karate or kabaddi can have some kind of favoritism or sexism. However, there is no sexism in shooting. I have yet to see any favoritism from the federation, team or anyone else. So, at least based on my experience, I would say that there is no sexism in shooting,” she says.

Bhakar too did not face any other bias when it came to his age. “The main reason I continue shooting is because it is a completely fair game and a transparent game. There is no division even on the basis of age. I was 16 when I represented India in the senior category at the Commonwealth Games!

Mental strength is important, says Manu Bhakar

In 2020, Manu Bhakar got a chance to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics, but things didn’t go as planned. She could not win a medal, but she could not rejoice in defeat. She didn’t let the weight of the angry voice weigh 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 at your best when you are at your best mentally. Mental health is not something you can deal with easily because you cannot win all competitions – You win some, you lose some. You have to figure out the balance between how to deal with losing and how to do things right when 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. “When you use your brain so much, you forget everything that’s going on around it,” she laughs!

Emotions can be challenging

Being emotionally intelligent is the key to performing better at what you do, and Bhakar doesn’t let his emotional attachment to his sport get in the way of his big plans.

“One of the biggest challenges athletes face is emotional attachment. Getting too emotionally involved in sports can sometimes be unhealthy and even toxic because we can’t win all the competitions. Sometimes we do well, sometimes we do great, and sometimes we perform averagely. Therefore, a certain level of emotional detachment is important for all of us to give our best.”

Manu Bhakar has given a message to aspiring female athletes

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

Manu Bhakar also requests parents to prevent or stop their children from pursuing what they want. “If you want to push them, push them to achieve their goals and help them reach new heights,” she concludes!

Leave a Comment