In her first Commonwealth Games, 16-year old Manu Bhaker won India's first gold medal in shooting in the women's 10m Air Pistol event. India's Heena Sidhu finished with a silver medal after coming back strongly in the elimination round. Adding to the medal tally, Ravi Kumar then shot 224.1 to to win bronze in the men's 10m air rifle event.
Manu Bhaker led throughout the two stages and finished with a score of 240.9, which is a new Commonwealth Games record. She was dominant throughout the contest, but it was a different story for Sidhu, who climbed up steadily in the elimination round.
Bhaker's first stage score of 101.5 set the tempo as most of the group played catch up after that. Australia's Elena Galiabovitch was second with a score of 98.8 at that point. Bhaker, who won two golds at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, went from strength to strength in the elimination round as she produced a dominant display.
Bhaker had also topped the qualification round earlier, scoring 388, a Commonwealth Games record. Sidhu shot a score of 379 to be in second place at the end of the qualification round.
The gold medal at Guadalajara was her biggest-ever achievement before this -- Bhaker beat Rio Olympic gold medallist Anna Korakaki, silver medallist in London Celine Goberville, and Heidi Gerber, a bronze medallist in Rio -- but Bhaker had already been marked as something special. At the 2017 National Championships, she won nine gold medals including the marquee 10m air pistol, where she beat Olympian Sidhu. A month later, at the Khelo India games, she set two other junior national records. There was little surprise at the end of January when she was named in the 27-member squad for the Commonwealth Games.
Bhaker is clearly a natural in a sport that Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra has described as one of stillness. But it hasn't always been this way. Restless is how her father Ramkishen Bhaker would describe her. What makes her success even more remarkable is the breakneck progression of her career. Her World Cup gold medal was won less than two years after she picked up a pistol for the first time.
"She's played nearly everything. She began boxing when she was six, then played cricket, kabaddi, then tennis, Tang Ta (Manipuri martial arts) and then karate," says Ramkishen, a marine engineer.
It wasn't as if Bhaker, who grew up in Goria village in Haryana's Jhajjar district, was aimlessly drifting from one sport to another. "When she picks up a sport, she becomes obsessive about it. I've never forced her to compete, she just pushes herself to excel. She started boxing when she was six years old and within six months she won a bronze at the Haryana sub-junior championships. She was a state level champion in skating and she won medals in athletics too. She won a gold medal at the Tang Ta nationals and has a national medal in karate too," Ramkishen had told ESPN earlier this year.
"I really want to win gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and also the Olympics. I'm very happy to have won here but it is only one win in a very long journey for me," Bhaker had told ESPN earlier this year. With one half of that goal achieved, she will now set her sights on the Olympics.
10m air rifle: Ravi Kumar wins bronze after surviving shoot-off
In the men's 10m air rifle final, Deepak Kumar, had a Stage 1 score of 101.3, and Ravi, with a score of 100.5, to be in fifth and eighth position respectively at the end of stage 1. The favourites going into the final, Deepak and Ravi had finished first and second respectively in the qualification round, with the former setting a Commonwealth record in the qualifiers, shooting 627.2.
In Stage 2 of the elimination round, Ravi shot an almost perfect 10.9 and 10.8 to move to the second position, while Deepak moved up to the fifth position. Deepak eventually finished fifth, while Ravi remained in medal contention.
In a dramatic turn of events, with four people remaining in the field, Ravi tied with Australia's Alex Hoberg to go into a shoot-off to remain in contention. He maintained his nerves to go through and assure himself of a medal.
Ravi then shot a 9.3 and 10.2, which put him below the other two competitors, resulting in his elimination at 224.1. Australia's Dane Sampson won gold with a Commonwealth Games record of 245 points while Bangladesh's Abdullah Hel Baki won silver with 244.7 points.