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Explained: What Happened to Manu Bhaker's Pistol? Was it Avoidable?

Manu Bhaker was knocked out of the 10m Air Pistol Qualification event at the Tokyo Olympics.

Updated
Sports
5 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Tokyo Olympics: Manu Bhaker was pegged back by a technical failure during the Women's 10m Air Pistol Qualification event.</p></div>
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Manu Bhaker is the only Indian shooter to be selected to compete in three events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Such is the calibre of the 19-year-old.

On Sunday, 25 July, she stepped onto the Asaka Shooting Range for the first of her events – the 10m air pistol in which she's won multiple World Cup golds and is currently ranked number two in the world, but due to multiple gun malfunctions, Manu had 20 minutes of her shooting time snatched away and eventually missed the qualification mark by a whisker.

What happened to Manu's gun? How often does this happen? Didn't she have a spare weapon?

The Quint explains:

Explained: What Happened to Manu Bhaker's Pistol? Was it Avoidable?

  1. 1. The Cocking Lever Glitch

    In a very rare scenario, the cocking lever of Bhaker's pistol broke down.

    When the technical glitch occurred, the 2018 CWG gold medallist was well on track to qualify for the final as she was ranked in the top 8. The shooter's score was 154 out of 160, after 16 shots.

    Former India world number one in air pistol Heena Sidhu explained the technicalities of the problem while speaking to ESPN. "A cocking lever helps you to load the pellet as the chamber opens. It's only after you close the lever, do you get to shoot the shot. Hence, she couldn't shoot (as the lever was broken)," said the two-time Olympian.

    But it was while changing the lever that another problem with the gun emerged – a broken electric circuit.

    "In order to change the lever you have to get rid of the grip. You have remove the grip, the screws and the electric circuit to change the cocking lever. However, after they made these changes they found out that the electric circuit was broken as it was overheated and had to remove the grip again," Sidhu added.

    Expand
  2. 2. How Often Does This Happen?

    "We usually hear the phrase, 'its not the pistol, it's the man behind the gun but it's only true as long as the pistol is functioning," said the two-time CWG gold medallist.

    Sidhu mentioned how she had "never heard" of a broken cocking lever. Her husband and coach of the Indian pistol shooting team Ronak Pandit elaborated on how uncommon the issue is.

    "I'll put this to wear and tear. The lever is an internal part of the pistol, so there's no way to gauge from the outside what's wrong with it. The chances of this happening are 0.1 percent, as good as 0. The lever of the pistol that I have been using since 1999 is still completely fine, but Manu's broke in four years. Since it is an internal part, you have to open the pistol and replace it. She had to open the spare gun, take out the part and replace it with the gun she was using," said Ronak who was with Manu in Tokyo.

    However, while gun malfunctions are rare, Manu has suffered from a similar issue before. She faced a weapon malfunction in the 2019 ISSF World Cup in Munich but the Indian came back in the next events to book her place at the Tokyo Olympics.

    Expand
  3. 3. Race Against Time

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Deswal finished 12th and 13th respectively in the 10m Air Pistol Women's Qualification</p></div>

    Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Deswal finished 12th and 13th respectively in the 10m Air Pistol Women's Qualification

    Image: PTI 

    "Some are saying 17, 18, 6 minutes; but actually the repair work took 22 minutes," Ramkrishnan Bhaker, Manu's father, told The Times of India.

    "At first, she was attended to for three minutes after she raised her hand to get the attention of a range official. Then the jury recognised the malfunction and allowed the pistol to be fixed," he added throwing some light on the unfortunate situation.

    Manu returned to her spot in the range after a gap of 22 minutes to complete the second series and was left with 36 minutes to shoot 44 shots.

    With a lot of catching up to do in a very limited time, Manu shot 95, 94, and 95 in the second, third, and fourth rounds, the pressure telling on the 19-year-old's performance. However, she regained her composure in time to shoot 98 in fifth round but followed it up with a 95 in the sixth to finish with a score of 575/600.

    A valiant effort by an Olympic debutant.

    Expand
  4. 4. Don't Players Have Backup Guns?

    The one question though that has been asked since Manu's incident is why she didn't switch to the back-up gun that shooters carry with them for instances just like this.

    As explained by Heena Sidhu, with the change of the gun, the grip of the pistol also changes and most of the shooters aren't keen to make the change to the alternate equipment, specially while competing at an event like an Olympic qualifier.

    Manu instead chose to have the damaged part from her gun replaced from her spare weapon. Only, this backfired because when the second problem with her gun was discovered, Manu was left with no option but to wait since her spare weapon had already been opened for the repair work.

    Expand
  5. 5. Redemption Awaits

    "Manu is doing well. It was an unfortunate incident, it was just bad luck. It's a past memory for her now. It was a bad day. She's taking this in her stride. Tomorrow never dies," Manu's father told The Quint on Monday, 26 July.

    And she has two more shots at redemption, as Manu's the only shooter selected by the Indian shooting federation to compete in three events in Tokyo.

    How she completed her 10m qualification event is proof that the 19-year-old has a lot of fight in her to overcome Sunday's setback.

    Despite losing almost 22 minutes, Bhaker was in the fray to qualify for the final round had she shot an inner 10 on her final attempt. However, the pressure piled on her and she registered scores of 9, 9, and 8 in three out of the last four shots.

    "'Papa, dekhti hu kab tak kismat mujh se naraz rehti hai (let me see for how long can fate not be on my side)'. She called and said 'Papa tension mat lo'. I will keep at it. Can't fight destiny. Maybe destiny doesn't want (an Olympic medal for Manu) at the moment, but she says 'mein to ziddi hu (I am stubborn), tomorrow never dies'," Manu's father told The Times of India.

    On Tuesday, Manu Bhaker will be in action in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed team event with Saurabh Chaudhary. Since 2019, the duo has won 5 gold medals and a silver in the ISSF World Cups.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The Cocking Lever Glitch

In a very rare scenario, the cocking lever of Bhaker's pistol broke down.

When the technical glitch occurred, the 2018 CWG gold medallist was well on track to qualify for the final as she was ranked in the top 8. The shooter's score was 154 out of 160, after 16 shots.

Former India world number one in air pistol Heena Sidhu explained the technicalities of the problem while speaking to ESPN. "A cocking lever helps you to load the pellet as the chamber opens. It's only after you close the lever, do you get to shoot the shot. Hence, she couldn't shoot (as the lever was broken)," said the two-time Olympian.

But it was while changing the lever that another problem with the gun emerged – a broken electric circuit.

"In order to change the lever you have to get rid of the grip. You have remove the grip, the screws and the electric circuit to change the cocking lever. However, after they made these changes they found out that the electric circuit was broken as it was overheated and had to remove the grip again," Sidhu added.

How Often Does This Happen?

"We usually hear the phrase, 'its not the pistol, it's the man behind the gun but it's only true as long as the pistol is functioning," said the two-time CWG gold medallist.

Sidhu mentioned how she had "never heard" of a broken cocking lever. Her husband and coach of the Indian pistol shooting team Ronak Pandit elaborated on how uncommon the issue is.

"I'll put this to wear and tear. The lever is an internal part of the pistol, so there's no way to gauge from the outside what's wrong with it. The chances of this happening are 0.1 percent, as good as 0. The lever of the pistol that I have been using since 1999 is still completely fine, but Manu's broke in four years. Since it is an internal part, you have to open the pistol and replace it. She had to open the spare gun, take out the part and replace it with the gun she was using," said Ronak who was with Manu in Tokyo.

However, while gun malfunctions are rare, Manu has suffered from a similar issue before. She faced a weapon malfunction in the 2019 ISSF World Cup in Munich but the Indian came back in the next events to book her place at the Tokyo Olympics.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Deswal finished 12th and 13th respectively in the 10m Air Pistol Women's Qualification</p></div>

Manu Bhaker and Yashaswini Deswal finished 12th and 13th respectively in the 10m Air Pistol Women's Qualification

Image: PTI 

Race Against Time

"Some are saying 17, 18, 6 minutes; but actually the repair work took 22 minutes," Ramkrishnan Bhaker, Manu's father, told The Times of India.

"At first, she was attended to for three minutes after she raised her hand to get the attention of a range official. Then the jury recognised the malfunction and allowed the pistol to be fixed," he added throwing some light on the unfortunate situation.

Manu returned to her spot in the range after a gap of 22 minutes to complete the second series and was left with 36 minutes to shoot 44 shots.

With a lot of catching up to do in a very limited time, Manu shot 95, 94, and 95 in the second, third, and fourth rounds, the pressure telling on the 19-year-old's performance. However, she regained her composure in time to shoot 98 in fifth round but followed it up with a 95 in the sixth to finish with a score of 575/600.

A valiant effort by an Olympic debutant.

ADVERTISEMENT

Don't Players Have Backup Guns?

The one question though that has been asked since Manu's incident is why she didn't switch to the back-up gun that shooters carry with them for instances just like this.

As explained by Heena Sidhu, with the change of the gun, the grip of the pistol also changes and most of the shooters aren't keen to make the change to the alternate equipment, specially while competing at an event like an Olympic qualifier.

Manu instead chose to have the damaged part from her gun replaced from her spare weapon. Only, this backfired because when the second problem with her gun was discovered, Manu was left with no option but to wait since her spare weapon had already been opened for the repair work.

ADVERTISEMENT

Redemption Awaits

"Manu is doing well. It was an unfortunate incident, it was just bad luck. It's a past memory for her now. It was a bad day. She's taking this in her stride. Tomorrow never dies," Manu's father told The Quint on Monday, 26 July.

And she has two more shots at redemption, as Manu's the only shooter selected by the Indian shooting federation to compete in three events in Tokyo.

How she completed her 10m qualification event is proof that the 19-year-old has a lot of fight in her to overcome Sunday's setback.

Despite losing almost 22 minutes, Bhaker was in the fray to qualify for the final round had she shot an inner 10 on her final attempt. However, the pressure piled on her and she registered scores of 9, 9, and 8 in three out of the last four shots.

"'Papa, dekhti hu kab tak kismat mujh se naraz rehti hai (let me see for how long can fate not be on my side)'. She called and said 'Papa tension mat lo'. I will keep at it. Can't fight destiny. Maybe destiny doesn't want (an Olympic medal for Manu) at the moment, but she says 'mein to ziddi hu (I am stubborn), tomorrow never dies'," Manu's father told The Times of India.

On Tuesday, Manu Bhaker will be in action in the 10m Air Pistol Mixed team event with Saurabh Chaudhary. Since 2019, the duo has won 5 gold medals and a silver in the ISSF World Cups.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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