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Asian Games: Dipa Karmakar's First Target - Final

Dronacharya awardee Bisweswar Nandi was asked about his mentee Dipa Karmakar’s defining trait, something that makes her stand out from ever other gymnast he has seen. His answer didn’t involve technical jargon, or an appraisal of her technique. She is a stubborn, angry girl, he said simply.

Suyash Upadhyaya | News18 Sports

Updated:August 16, 2018, 7:48 PM IST
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“Zidd, gussa. Matlab, zidd aur gussa toh ek hi cheez hoti hai.”
(“Stubbornness, anger. I mean, stubbornness and anger are essentially the same things.”)

Dronacharya awardee Bisweswar Nandi was asked about his mentee Dipa Karmakar’s defining trait, something that makes her stand out from ever other gymnast he has seen. His answer didn’t involve technical jargon, or an appraisal of her technique. She is a stubborn, angry girl, he said simply.

At the continental and world level in gymnastics, it is these intangibles that set apart the best from the rest. It also explains how a girl who was born flat-footed almost willed the sole of her feet into developing an arch through intense training even before she hit her teens, how she was a whisker (no exaggeration) away from bagging a podium finish at the highest level of her sport in 2016, and how the colour of the medal around her neck at the end of her return to competitive action at the World Challenge Cup in July after spending two years recovering from a career threatening ACL injury, was Gold.

Karmakar will now throw down the gauntlet at the Asian Games that begin in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18. Or as Nandi calls them, the second Olympics. Her last appearance at the Asian games at Incheon 2014 did not yield a medal, finishing fourth in the vault final with a score of 14.200 behind Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan and Hong Un-jong of North Korea.



“The Asian Games are like the second Olympics for us. Because over there, countries like China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Uzbekistan pose a huge challenge for our gymnasts,” Nandi said. “But we will not give up. We will take it as a challenge.”

Finding a gymnast like Karmakar in India, is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. When she qualified for the final round at Rio 2016, she became the first Indian gymnast since 1964 to participate in the Olympics. It was a moment she had been preparing for since the age of 6, when her training under Nandi and his wife, Soma, began.

In 2016 came Karmakar’s most poignant moment in the limelight. Rio, and the Produnova. The latter became one of the most searched words of 2016 in India after Karmakar performed the move which involves a front handspring, launching into a double somersault before landing on one’s feet. One of the most dangerous gymnastic moves (because of the risk of falling on one’s neck/back) and by extension, rewarding, Karmakar executed it with consummate grace to finish with a final score of 15.066. Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland took the bronze with a score of 15.216, just 0.150 points above Karmakar’s score. A whisker indeed.

So what can we expect from Dipa heading into the Asian Games. Not the Produnova for starters, says Nandi. “Dipa is fit again (after her ACL injury), but I’m making her do a new vault right now, not the Produnova. She does not have enough strength for the Produnova yet, so we’re working on something else. But by the end of the year, we should start practicing the Produnova again.

Nandi then turns optimistic. “There have been so many changes in Indian gymnastics (after Karmakar’s performance at Rio 2016). There has been an increase in the number of gymnasts at every centre. We need quantity. The more quantity we have right now, the more quality we’ll have later. If this flow continues, we will have an Indian team participating at the Olympics. Even that day will come.”

For now, it’s all about Karmakar, her stubbornness, and her anger. And with Karmakar almost back to full fitness, anything is possible for her at the Asian Games. The first target for the coach-athlete duo, however, is not a medal, but just reaching the final of the vault event in artistic gymnastics. It won’t be easy, with the likes of Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitna, China’s Lin Jinru and Wang Yan, and Japan’s Sae Miyakama, all in action in Jakarta and Pelambang.

| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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