22 year old Dipa Karmakar will be representing India in the artistic gymnastics event in the Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Olympics in August 2016. What is so great about that, you ask?
She is the first Indian woman to qualify for the event in Olympics since it started. She is also the first Indian gymnast to qualify for the quadrennial event since 1964. In Independent India, 11 male gymnasts have taken part in the Olympics but she is the first woman to be participating. Mind you, despite the lack of facilities and proper infrastructure for her event!
Her biggest achievement till date – the Produnava world record
She is the holder of the highest score of 15.100 (7.000 for difficulty, 8.100 for execution, with a 0.1 penalty) on a Produnova in the world. She has achieved that flawlessly. Two of her contemporaries who have attempted it – Yamilet Pena of the Dominican Republic and Fadwa Mahmoud of Egypt came close to it but not managed her score.
The Produnova comprises running full tilt towards the springboard, jumping followed by blocking by the hand, swinging the legs into two full rotations while in flight for twin somersaults and the crucial frontal landing. The frontal landing if it goes wrong could even result in severe spinal injury if unbalanced.
The Russsian Yelena Produnova was the first to land firmly on unbent feet at the Universiade Games, then itself considered very risky. But Karmakar watching her videos later and confident about her own abilities was sure she could do it. When her coach Nandi floated the idea about four months before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, she said she could do it whereas he was wondering whether he should make her attempt it, despite her having the speed and strength to succeed. 10-15 days before the Glasgow Games she tried it on the real apparatus. She won the bronze medal and became the first woman to get any medal at the championships.
The early start for Dipa Karmakar
Dipa, born August 1993, hails from Agartala, in the North Eastern State of Tripura. She has been receiving training in gymnastics since she was 6 years old. But she had never thought of being a gymnast. Dipa’s father Dulal Karmakar, a weight-lifting coach with the Sports Authority of India, pushed her into gymnastics even though she had a fear of falling. She was put under veteran Bisbeshwar Nandi and later also Kalpana Debnath (Arjuna Award winner 2000). Recalls her coach Nandi "I still remember Dipa coming to me as a flat-footed kid, which is not good for a gymnast. It affects the spring in her jump," he told. "That was the hardest part to fix for Dipa, we had to work very, very hard when she was a little kid to get the curve in her feet." Naturally Dipa credits her coach for her success saying she would be nothing today if not for her coach. Nandi in turn credits everything to his once Guru, Dalip Singh, an NIS coach who revolutionized Tripura’s fortunes in the event 1965 onwards by training hundreds like him.
Her rising Career graph
In 2007 she won at the Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri. This made her passionate about the sport. Since 2007 she has won 77 medals including 67 gold in state, national and international championships. In 2011 she represented Tripura in the 2011 National Games of India and won five golds in floor, vault,, balance beam, uneven bars and all round. She had only coach Nandi to thank since he has been coaching her in gymnastics since she was 6 till date.
Since 2014 she has been more on the international stage. In July 2014 Commonwealth Games she received an overall score of 14.366 to become the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth gymnastics medal and the second Indian after Ashish Kumar who had won it in the previous Games. Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar mentioned her in his speech lauding her, at the felicitation for CWG athletes. Again in 2014 though she came fourth this time she lost to more worthy competitors who were winners in the previous Olympics and one in the world championships, having put up a brave fight.
In October 2015 in the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships she scored 14.683 to rank 5th
and despite a heroic performance failed to clinch the qualifying place.
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The Good News – qualified for Rio Olympics
The 22-year-old gymnast from Agartala gave her finest performance with a total score of 52.698 points in the qualifying event for the Olympics that helped her reserve a berth for artistic gymnastics in the Rio Games to be held in August. Dipa, was successful in the Final Qualifier and Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, finishing ninth in the first of the four subdivisions of the women’s artistic category. Her first vault, the tough Produnova, gave Dipa 15.066 points, the highest among the 14 competitors. But she could not do as well in the uneven bars and got 11.700 points. Dipa earned 13.366 and 12.566 points in beam and floor exercises. With a strong total score of 52.698 points, Dipa reserved her berth in the Rio Olympics.
International referee Deepak Kagra told PTI, “Dipa is 100 per cent assured of an Olympic berth with this 52.698 score. There are three subdivisions to go but she has already beaten gymnasts from three countries. So she has qualified.” “It was a very good score from Dipa and we were certain that she would qualify. Now the world body has published the names of the gymnasts who have qualified for the Olympics and her name is there. The gymnastics community is proud of Dipa’s achievements,” he told the Press Trust of India.
This was her last opportunity to find a place in the 2016 Olympics.
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Now all eyes are on the Rio Olympics hoping that Dipa, the queen of Indian gymnastics creates a miracle of sorts. Keeping their fingers crossed and praying ardently for her performance to be worthy enough to secure a medal for herself and her country, millions of Indians are hopeful of just that.