Manu Bhaker, appearing in her maiden Olympics in Tokyo, was unable to make the women's 10m Air Pistol final. With a 12th place finish in the qualification round, she, alongside 13th placed Yashaswini Singh Deswal, didn't make the top-8 required for the medal round.
The 19-year-old Manu, ranked number two in the world, was pegged back by a technical glitch involving her gun after an impressive start saw her take one of the places in the top eight. She lost nearly 20 minutes of the allotted 75 minutes while trying to fix the pistol's cocking lever.
When she returned to the firing point after getting the issue sorted, Bhaker had to complete the remaining 44 shots in 36 minutes, an improbable task at any level of competition.
Once she had returned to the range, more agony awaited the 19-year-old with 4-5 minutes lost in checking the repaired gun in the sighter (practice).
Speaking in the mixed zone after qualification, coach Ronak Pandit told journalists in Tokyo: "Manu's gun malfunctioned. The lever inside her pistol broke, which means she couldn't open the barrel and load pellets. This usually never happens in 10m air pistol guns, although malfunctions and jamming of weapons are fairly common in 25m."
"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 4 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."
An opening of 98 was followed by 95, 94 and a 95 as the young shooter dropped out of the top-10.
With a 98, the Commonwealth Games and Youth Olympics gold medallist tried to stage a comeback of sorts in the fifth series, but caved in under pressure in a poor final series, which saw her register one 8 and three 9s, leaving Frenchwoman Celine Goberville to bag the eighth and last qualifying spot.
Pistol shooter Heena Sidhu, who has represented India in two Olympics besides being a former world champion and world record holder, explained in detail the problems faced by her compatriot while slamming those who held the view that Manu buckled under pressure.
"For all d people who are quick to judge that Manu succumbed to pressure. I just got to know what happened to her equipment in detail n how much time she lost. She didn''t succumb to pressure she rose to it," Heena, who is married to Ronak, tweeted.
"Giving a score of 575 in less than 34 mins is n achievement of her nerves."
In another tweet, Heena wrote, "She was so close that if that last shot was an inner 10 she wud have been in the finals even after going through a complete weapon breakdown in between the match.
"Stop judging athletes on numbers coz [sic] maybe that's the only thing u can understand. Start understanding Performance!!"
Lauding the two India shooters for their effort, Heena said, "Manu and Deswal rank 12, 13 with 575 and 574. I think they put up a brave brave fight especially Manu, after having some problem with her equipment.
"I think this experience will make them stronger for the mixed team event which I'm really looking forward to now."
(With PTI inputs)