In less than than three months of training at the range, coach Ronak Pandit and Manu Bhaker have “put in place a plan”, giving impetus to the pistol prodigy’s hopes of a podium finish in Olympics. Pandit has been guiding Bhaker since her split with Jaspal Rana, one of India’s best pistol shooters and under whom she blossomed into a world-class competitor after a spate of excellent results in top international events. They parted way after the ISSF World Cup in New Delhi in March. Pandit trained Bhaker for about a month and a half during the Indian team’s tour of Croatia, overseeing her final phase of preparations.
“We have trained for about two and a half to three months and put in a plan for her,” Pandit, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist (paired with Samaresh Jung in 2006), told PTI from Tokyo.
One of three pistol shooting coaches with the Indian team, Pandit has full faith in Bhaker’s abilities and says the huge expectations don’t bother either the shooter or himself.
“There are pros and cons of expectations but Manu, even at the age of 16 and 17, was shooting in World Cups and winning medals. She is very level-headed and is used to such pressure and expectations.
“Ahead of the Olympics, she is calm and composed, fully focused on the task,” he said.
Pandit also said that it is “absolutely important” to ensure that the shooters are protected from any sort of distraction in the time between the qualifications and the finals.
Armed with years of experience in coaching after an active career as a pistol shooter, Pandit is optimistic about the Indian shooters’ prospects in Tokyo. He had traveled to London and Rio de Janeiro for the 2012 and 2016 Games, in his capacity as personal coach to Heena Sidhu, his wife and one of India’s entries in the pistol events.
In Tokyo, Pandit will have his hands full as Bhaker will be shooting in three events — 10m individual and mixed team (with Saurabh Chaudhary), and 25m pistol — but he is up for it and so is the shooter, who is world number two in 10m air pistol.
While the Indian team did not get enough time to practice on Wednesday, the official practice training began on Thursday.
“We had a short 20-30 minutes training yesterday as official training only began from today. The 50m range was closed from Thursday so that all air shooters can practice full steam. Calling Bhaker an accomplished shooter, Ronak said they focussed mainly on performing in pressure situations.
“We prepared a lot for the finals, discussed about how the mind affects the body and how we could manage the mind better for better execution of the technique. We have made good progress in the time we got and I am satisfied with it.
“They just need to focus on the process and not think much about the results. Appearing in the Olympics is different from other events,” he said.
Meanwhile the air rifle shooters from various countries on Thursday practiced in the finals hall, including India’s Divyansh Singh Panwar who will shoot on the second competition day on July 25.
The Olympics are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8, with the shooting events spread across the first 10 days of the extravaganza, which will be held without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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