Among athletes, Dipa Karmakar belongs to a rare species. She is the first Indian gymnast to qualify for Olympics in 52 years.
No wonder she is well-shielded by the Sports Authority of India. Getting hold of her was difficult. Her phone was switched off, and so was her coach B.S. Nandi’s.
Karmakar, 22, had been training long and hard to qualify for Rio. She almost succeeded at the World Championships last November, but ended up missing the podium. A fine performance in the final qualifying-cum-test event in Rio clinched the birth.
“We trained so hard that, had it been in any other sport, we could have made it to the Olympics long before,” she told THE WEEK.
Karmakar is a bona fide medal contender. In July, the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique named her ‘world-class gymnast' for her fifth-place finish at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow last October. She had won bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2015 Asian Championships.
After Karmakar’s journey to Rio became a certainty, SAI rushed to provide her with all facilities—a spanking new vault table, floor exercise equipment, trampoline, and so on. This is a far cry from the times when Nandi would make a springboard from the shock absorbers of a second-hand scooter.
“Vaulting table is her main event,” said Nandi. “The difficulty mark is 7 and execution is 10—so it’s 17. We have to get 15.67. Currently, she has attained 15.34.”
Karmakar happens to be among a handful in the world who have attempted the Produnova, a move considered to be the most dangerous in gymnastics. At Rio, she would be taking on stars like Simone Biles of the US, Elissa Downie of Great Britain and Maris Paseka of Russia.
What could help her defeat all of them is her grit. Last heard, Biles practises around 15 vaults a week; Karmakar does 127! “I attempt the vault morning, noon and night,” she said, “so that I can get it right at Rio.”