The gun malfunction of shooter Manu Bhaker, which cost India a key medal opportunity at the Tokyo Olympics, has triggered a debate between her coach Ronak Pandit and Swiss firm Morini. The arguments were made on social media, with the exchange of several harsh words.
After 16 shots in the women’s 10-metre air pistol qualification event at the Asaka Shooting Range, Bhaker’s gun began to malfunction as the cocking lever at the top of the gun’s barrel broke. Even as her competitors continued to shoot the required 60 shots in 75 minutes in the qualification round, the 19-year-old had to spend 17 precious minutes in fixing the malfunction.
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At this juncture, Bhaker had two main options: use her spare pistol, also made by Morini, or repair the malfunctioning one. For the latter option, there were again a couple of choices, said an Indian Express report.
The option not taken
Morini says Bhaker could have taken the gun to a repair station set up outside the range. “Morini technical repair place at the Tokyo Olympic games. For people that don’t know where we are, we are at the left of the weapon deposit office,” it informed the public via a post on Facebook.
Pandit argued that the option was not viable, said the IE report. Through a detailed video that he later uploaded on Facebook, he said the repair station was quite a distance away from the shooting range. Making the trip would’ve cost more time than what was taken to fix the gun on the field, he said.
But Morini insisted it was still a bad choice. According to IE, Francesco Repich, who owns Morini, said on the Facebook post the company had reached out to the Indonesian judge who had presided over the qualification event.
He said, quoting the judge, that the gun had “slightly loosened the charge screw”. Repich argued that the Indian coach took a precious 10 minutes to fix the glitch, while the qualified Morini team would’ve accomplished it in far less time. The Indian team further declined to take sighting pictures to check the pistol later on, he added.
The logic behind the decision
Pandit’s video said Bhaker’s lane (lane 52) was quite a walk away from the repair stall, and would’ve cost the shooter more time. Second, walking away from the field would’ve been more traumatic for the shooter, he argued. “You think her heart rate would have been stable after walking so much to get the gun repaired. Which idiot is saying that?” he asked.
Further, said Pandit, himself a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Bhaker didn’t use the spare pistol because she wasn’t comfortable with it. “As for the spare pistol, her previous coach had changed the grip of that pistol, she was not comfortable with it and that is why she stuck to the one which malfunctioned,” he explained.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI), meanwhile, has issued a show-cause notice to Repich for his alleged comments. Apart from criticising how Bhaker’s gun malfunction was handled, Morini’s owner had also made remarks on the performances of other Indian shooters in Tokyo. Following the NRAI’s move, Repich removed his Facebook posts.