BUENOS AIRES: Manu Bhaker of India is the Youth Olympic champion in the 10m Air Pistol Women event, as she ruled the final match in Buenos Aires and added another gold medal to her impressive collection of prizes.
Last March, in fact, the talented 16-year-old won Air Pistol gold in her first ISSF World Cup participation in Guadalajara, Mexico, then pocketing two Junior World Cup gold medals — won in Sydney and Suhl, Germany — and a number of continental and national titles.
In Buenos Aires, where the third edition of the Youth Olympic Games kicked off on October 6, Bhaker led the 10m Air Pistol Women event throughout the whole day, first entering the final with the highest qualification score — 576 points — and then all along the final, firing eight of her first ten shots inside the 10th ring and eventually claiming the brightest medal with 236.5 points.
“Actually I have no idea I’ve been in the lead for the whole match, I was trying to focus completely on my shooting, checking the score every four or five shots, to see how I was doing,” said Bhaker after the medal ceremony.
“I can’t really express how happy I am, this medal is so happy!” she added. “This is the most beautiful victory of my career so far, no doubt!”
To climb on the highest step of the podium, Bhaker had to prevail over Russian Federation’s Iana Enina, junior bronze medalist at the 2018 European Championship in Gyor, Hungary: the 18-year-old Russian closed her match 0.6 points behind Bhaker, taking silver with 235.9 points.
Accompanied and coached by eight-time Olympian Nino Salukvadze, Georgia’s 18-year-old Nino Khutsiberidze completed the podium in third place, winning the Youth Olympic bronze medal with 214.6 points. The Georgian athlete, who previously placed 7th among juniors at last month’s ISSF World Championship in Changwon, Korea, fired out of the 10th ring with both her 21st and 22nd shot, sliding down one place and finishing third.
A bad 8.0 nailed in her 20th shot costed Thailand’s Kanyakorn Hirunphoem a place on the podium. The 17-year-old Thai shooter, indeed, slid down from the second to the fourth place at a crucial moment, barely missing the medals and scoring 194.3 points.
Hirunphoem was followed by 18-year-old Anja Prezelj of Slovenia, who concluded the match in fifth place with 173.5 points, and by People’s Republic of China’s Lu Kaiman (18): the two-time Junior World Cup medalist placed 6th with 153.0 points.
The bottom-two positions were taken by 18-year-old Fatimah Abbas Waheeb Al Kaabi of Iraq and 17-year-old Greta Rankelyte of Lithuania, who both scored below the 44.0-point mark in their first 5-shot series: the Iraqi young shooter took seventh place in her first final participation, signing off with 130.7 points and preceding her Lithuanian rival, who claimed eighth position with 110.4 points.