Aiming at an Olympic quota, Manu Bhakar says she is "putting in a lot extra" as she juggles between shooting and studies ahead of the World World Cup, which precedes her Class 12 Board exams.
The 17-year-old Bhaker, owner of multiple ISSF World Cup, Commonwealth and Youth Olympic gold medals, has her eyes trained at a quota for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Having turned a year older two days ago, Bhaker will have her chance to secure another quota for the country in the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup, which begins at the Dr Karni Singh Range from Saturday.
"I am doing little extra work as my class 12 exam is also scheduled just after the World Cup. Hence, I study for my exams after practice," Bhaker told PTI.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) recently requested the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to reschedule the class 12 exam dates for Bhaker and fellow marksman Vijayveer Sidhu in order to avoid a clash with the upcoming Asian Airgun Championships.
With their impressive showings in the World Championships, last year in Korea, Anjum Moudgil and Apurvi Chandela earned India two Olympic quotas. The shooting fraternity is optimistic about adding to that numbers over the next few days, and Bhaker is one of the many hopefuls.
"Hope we will get it ... Pressure is bit more this time around as Olympic tickets are there."
Around 503 shooters from 58 countries will be competing for top honours with eight of the 10 events offering 16 quota places for the Tokyo Games.
Having taken the junior circuit by storm with her explosive performances, Bhaker, hailing from Jhajjar district in Haryana, did an encore when she graduated to the senior level.
She bagged a handful of medals, including individual gold, in her maiden senior ISSF World Cup, Commonwealth Games, before capping it off with a historic gold at the Youth Olympic in Buenos Aires last October.
In the same year, she also had her first brush with failure and the criticism that comes with it. She has dealt with them and is now looking forward with optimism, having given her best in practice.
"I am doing well in my practice and hope everything will be good. Second year is a number only," she said when asked how does she look to sustain the momentum, adding, "Olympic gold is the ultimate goal."
Refusing to be dragged into the controversy over Haryana sports minister Anil Vij's promise of a cash prize, Bhaker is looking forward to training with her coach Jaspal Rana, who was not part of the pre-World Cup national camp following a selection controversy.
"Jaspal sir is a great coach. and he will be joining soon," she said.