New Delhi: Elated after being named for the prestigious Padma Shri - India's fourth highest civilian award - gymnast Dipa Karmakar said this is just the beginning and she will strive to bring more laurels to the country.
"I am really happy that I was selected for this prestigious award. It is a big honour for me. I am thankful to the Sports Authority of India for giving me all the facilities I needed going into the Olympics. This is just a beginning for me. I have a long path to travel," Dipa Karmakar told News18.com in an exclusive interview.
Dipa was included in the list that has among other India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli, hockey captain PR Sreejesh and 2016 Olympic bronze medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik.
Padma Shri Awards: Dipa Karmakar to be Honoured for Rio Excellence
Dipa narrowly missed a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, but won a million hearts with her courageous show. The 23-year-old impressed everyone with her spectacular landing in the vault final, but a fourth-place finish kept her away from the podium.
The 23-year-old, who became the first Indian female gymnast to compete in the Olympics, missed out on a medal by 0.150 points despite successfully executing the dangerous 'Produnova' vault (15.266) in her second attempt in the final at the Rio Games.
"Whatever I am today is because of my coach. He has given me this identity. I know I have put in the hard yards, but it was Nandi sir who showed me the way," Dipa said.
Nandi was bestowed with the Dronacharya Award last year.
He has been dedicatedly giving training to Dipa for the last 16 years and prepared her to compete with the best in the business.
"Dipa deserved this. She is a dedicated sportsperson. I know she missed out on a medal in Rio, but I am happy with her performance. She has to go a long way. I am sure she will win a medal in Tokyo [Olympics 2020]. I have got the support and will expect the same in future," Bishweshwar told News18.com.
"Every athlete goes to the Olympics with one aim — winning a medal. Our aim was the same, but in the end, the best wins," Nandi said.
Dipa's Olympics show has also encouraged many youngsters in Agartala.
Now, Bishweshwar is seen training many students alongside Dipa at his academy — Netaji Subhash Regional Coaching Centre — in Agartala
"I run a small academy in Agartala. There is a lot of craze in the sport after Dipa's Rio performance. Students are coming and saying they want to become like Dipa," an elated coach said.
"I have only one aim. I want to produce three to four more Dipas before I stop," the coach signed off.