The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Sidhartha Sankar Nanda, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
From being flat-footed to 77 career medals, in a tiny corner of Tripura, an Olympic medal doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Dipa Karmakar ‘Star of India’ is an Indian artistic gymnast from Agartala, Tripura who represents India at the international circuit. Dipa Karmakar has clinched Rio 2016 berth and became the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympic games.
The 22-year-old garnered a total score of 52.698 points in the Olympics qualifying event to book a berth for artistic gymnastics in Rio Games to be held in August. Apart from being the first Indian woman, she will also be an Indian gymnast qualifying for the quadrennial extravaganza after 52 long years. Karmakar hails from Agartala, Tripura and started practising gymnastics when she was 6 years old. She has been coached by veteran Bisbeshwar Nandi since.
Since the independence of the country, 11 Indian male gymnast have taken part in the Olympics (two in 1952, three in 1956 and six in 1964) but this will be the first for an Indian woman at the Olympics.
Dipa had created history by becoming the first woman gymnast to win a medal — a bronze — in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. She then became the first Indian woman gymnast to feature in the finals of World Championships in November last. Karmakar is one of the few female gymnasts to regularly land the Produnova, one of the most dangerous vaults in the gymnastic world. She has also logged the highest score on a Produnova in the world.
While artistic gymnastics looks beautiful and graceful, the Produnova demonstrates how it requires considerable strength and courage. The risky manoeuvre involves running towards the spring, a jump by blocking the hand, swinging the legs into two somersaults during flight, and finally, a difficult landing that can break the neck and cause spinal injuries if it is unbalanced.
In cricket-mad India, gymnastics still has a low profile, but Karmakar is slowly changing that. The last Indian gymnast —- male or female — to compete in the Olympics was in 1964. She has spoken about feeling hurt when people compared gymnastics to “circus tricks”.
After her Commonwealth Games win, cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar famously lauded her achievement in a speech. With her Olympics qualification, Karmakar has shown that she is a trailblazer in more ways than one.