India’s latest sporting darling and sensation gymnast Dipa Karmakar is targeting Simone Biles and Tokyo to clinch that elusive medal she missed last month at Rio.
“Simone Biles is the best. My aim is to beat her. I am preparing in such a way that even if I cannot get the better of her, I end up with a silver.”
“I was happy with my finish until I came to my room. When I got to know the reaction of the entire country, the feeling of disappointment set in. If only I could win a medal, I could have gifted the country and all my fellow Bengalis something.”
Can Karmakar do it and that too in four years time at Tokyo?
It’s difficult to tell.
She has self-belief and confidence.
Historically, women gymnasts have performed best in their teens and by those standards, Dipa will be an old maid at 27.
Is it impossible? No, it isn’t.
But it will be extremely arduous.
Yogeshwar Dutt, to the nation’s chagrin, found that out the hard way when he lost his way in his opening wrestling bout.
Karmakar has refused to change her coach Bishweshwar Nandi in exchange for a ‘foreign hand’.
Karmakar qualified quite late for this year’s Games. Perhaps, she could have done much better had she more time to prepare.
But that’s past.
She will have to improve substantially in the other vault routines to surpass her superlative rival, Biles.
This can be achieved with the help of a foreign coach.
Like Andy Murray, she may need an Ivan Lendl to secure silverware.
Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps, foreign coaches are better suited to mould our athletes when they are much younger—say, in their teens.
That said, her progress needs to be monitored over the coming years to ensure that she is on the right track towards achieving her goal.
It would be interesting to see what former top international gymnasts and their respective coaches have to say about her Tokyo prospects.
One of them could be hired as a consultant to her current coach Nandi to add the desired variety to his ‘one–trick pony‘ .
She deserves all the assistance she can get. She truly does. And she needs to request it when she has all the attention.
“Hopefully, one day a vault will be named after me.”
—Dipa Karmakar, Indian woman gymnast.
Dipa Karmakar was hardly an unknown name when she made history a couple of days ago by becoming the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. She’s also the first Indian gymnast to do so in 52 years.
She was that girl—the one who won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth games, another first.
Her compatriot Ashish Kumar won a medal at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth games and another at the Asian Games that same year.
But his success story ended due to infighting within the national gymnastics body and apathy from its administrators.
Karmakar hails from Tripura—one of India’s backward states. That she made it so far is incredible.
What’s galling , however, is that it is only now that she becomes part of the TOPS scheme for Olympic athletes with a grant of Rs. 30 lakhs.
Karmakar is an exponent of the dreaded Produnova vault; she has the highest score ever among women logging 15.100 with a 7.000 for difficulty, 8.100 for execution and a 0.1 penalty.
Incorrect execution could result in serious spinal injuries and even death.
Karmakar says, “I’d seen boys do it, so why not? It’s tough because when you land after two aerial somersaults, the weight that comes on the leg is double – if I’m 45 kg, the legs have to take 80-90 kg.”
The 22-year-old from Agartala has strong legs. She is only the third from five women gymnasts to successfully attempt the maneuver.
Can Karmakar bring home an Olympic medal?
Karmakar believes she can. She wants it—badly
Her sister Puja has no doubts that it’s possible.
She says, “The world maybe wondering where this motivation suddenly came from. We always knew. Just watch her on the Vault.”