India’s teenage shooting prodigy Manu Bhaker says she’s not bringing her parents to the Asian Games in Indonesia. “They make limits for me, like, ‘Eat that, eat this, don’t go there, do this, don’t do this, don’t use your phone, don’t do this now, go to bed,'” she told AFP before a training session in Palembang.

“It’s a bit too much,” said the 16-year-old

Manu wants to not have her parents around on her overseas trips so that she can enjoy her freedom. The teenager shot to fame after winning the women’s 10m air pistol gold medal. She is one of our favourites at the Asian Games in Indonesia. With a tough training schedule and a restrictive lifestyle, Manu finds  less time with friends and a one-hour daily time limit for using her mobile phone. She isn’t the only sportsperson to do this.

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More importantly, Manu is competing at the senior level for the 25m sports pistol in both the individual and mixed team 10m air pistol.

“They’re seniors. They’re free. They can do anything they want,” she commented about her team-mates. “They can use their phones any time,” she added as pointed out the unfairness.

Why is a teenager like Manu in the senior team? In June this year, pistol shooter Heena Sidhu had asked the same question. She had criticised the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) for its “unjust policies”. Her comments follow the association’s move to include Manu, a junior pistol shooter, in the Asian Games and World Championships squads, despite her not meeting the selection requirement. Heena said she feels cheated by this move.

Heena, the former World No. 1, was “heartbroken” and “hurt” by the “injustice” of including Manu in the senior team

When NRAI’s ranking was announced, Heena ranked No. 1 in the 10m air pistol and No. 2 in 25m pistol. The rule is that the top two shooters in each category will go to the Asian Games. The No. 1 shooter also gets a chance to compete in the 10m air pistol mixed doubles category.

Even though Manu Bhaker shouldn’t be included in the team, according to the rules, NRAI’s selection committee decided to overrule it, tweaking the policy. As a result, Heena is now pushed to No. 2 in the 10m air pistol event and No. 3 in 25m sports pistol. She is therefore out of the 10m mixed event and is excluded from the 25m pistol team.

On top of that, now that she’s famous, her friends’ circle is comprised compared to earlier life. She claimed to have spent fewer than 10 days at her home in Haryana state since February. Hence, no friends or social life.

“Your friends are like, ‘No, we can’t have fun with her. She’s a Commonwealth gold medallist — we must respect her,'” she said. “Your friend circle decreases.”

Her coach Jaspal Rana, on the other hand, stated, “People come and go. But there are few people who become real champions, real heroes — so you need to work for that.”

We wish her good luck for the upcoming big game. Hope the hard work pays off!

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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