Manu Bhaker was in a league of her own as she shattered two records en route to adding the Commonwealth Games gold medal to the glowing list of achievements in her relatively nascent career, while compatriot Heena Sidhu bagged silver in the 10m air pistol event on Sunday.
The 16-year-old Bhaker’s calm demeanour belied her age as she shot a CWG finals record 240.9 to finish well ahead of her senior teammate Sidhu, who staged a stirring comeback to aggregate 234 at the Belmont Shooting Centre.
In the end, Bhaker finished a whopping 6.9 points ahead of Sidhu.
Appearing in his maiden Commonwealth Games like Bhaker, Ravi Kumar (224.1) claimed the bronze medal in men’s 10m air rifle event after surviving a shoot-off, while Saniya Sheikh had to be contend with a fourth-place finish in the women’s skeet finals with 32.
Deepak Kumar finished sixth in the 10m air rifle, while Maheshwari Chauhan could not make the skeet final.
A dominant Bhaker led throughout the two stages in her maiden Commonwealth Games outing. The previous qualification record was 386 by Dina Aspandiyarova of Australia.
The bronze medal went to Australia’s Elena Galiabovitch who ended with 214.9.
Bhaker was the overwhelming favourite to win the event, having bagged multiple gold medals at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico and the subsequent Junior World Cup in Sydney.
The event in Mexico was also a maiden appearance for the young girl from Jhajjar district in Haryana.
Sidhu too did well to win silver after she was on the verge of elimination at one stage. She had also won a silver at the Delhi Games in 2010.
On expected lines, Bhaker produced some excellent shooting and notched up 10 and above scores on 14 occasions in the eight-women finals, ending with a 10.4 to finish way ahead of pack.
Entering the Games after being embroiled in a controversy over the Sports Ministry’s initial decision to refuse accreditation to her husband-cum-coach Ronak Pandit, Sidhu was off to a poor start and was staring at elimination at one stage, only to pull off a fine fightback and prove her detractors wrong.
After a series of 9, Sidhu found her bearings and shot 10-plus scores nine times to not just widen the gap but finish well ahead of the eventual bronze medallist.
There was no doubt about Bhaker — she was miles ahead and certain to emerge champion when Sidhu and Galiabovitch were tied with 195 points with four more shots left in the finals. Bhaker had tallied 201.7 points by then.
After struggling to get going, Sidhu was back in medal contention with 175.3 points, courtesy a few 10-plus scores, even as Bhaker led with 180.2 points with six shots left.
Bhaker led with 141.5 points in Stage 2 Elimination, while Sidhu was placed sixth with 134.9 points.
Bhaker set the tempo when she recorded 101.5 at the end of first stage, leaving the others to play catch up for the rest of the finals. Her concentration was unwavering and she held her nerve all through to continue her golden run.
In the 24-shot final, Bhaker began from where she left off in qualifying, going 1.5 points clear of Galiabovitch after the first five-shot series itself.
Shooting happened to her by chance after a brush with contact sports and for someone who took to the sport just a little over two years ago, winning with such consistency would easily qualify as some achievement.
She stole the limelight at the last National Championships in Kerala, where she won nine golds and broke the national record, held by Sidhu. This was after she attained her maiden success – a silver at the 2017 Asian Championships.
Making her debut in the ISSF senior World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico last month, Bhaker defeated two-time champion and home favourite, Alejandra Zavala, to win the individual gold and then teamed up with Om Prakash Mitharval to claim the top honours in mixed team event.