The latest poster girl of Indian sport, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, will be in Delhi next week. There will be another round of interviews and electronic shoots as the young lady is out training for the Rio Olympic Games, barely a hundred days away.
Like quite a few well-known athletes before her, Dipa, too, has attained stardom despite the system, as it is said about some other illustrious sportspersons.
The Tripura girl has worked her way up from the backwaters of Indian sport to create history by qualifying for the Rio Olympics from a discipline which hardly gets much attention, gymnastics.
To be fair, she has received a fair share of support from government as well as non-governmental organisations, inspired by some of the greatest sportspersons the country can be proud of.
When one talks of the system, it is about the working of the national sports federations and associations affiliated to them and their role in helping and promoting deserving girls and boys to pursue their interests.
Dipa is too innocent to think or worry about the shenanigans in the Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI) which has split down the middle. At 22, she may be aware and bothered about the rival factions fighting to gain control of the federation, but she has kept herself above the petty politics of the officials in pursuit of goal.
She has also not forgotten how she faced humiliation at the national camps, awestruck by the girls coming from affluent families and big cities. She did not allow herself to be rattled by petty considerations, focusing on sport trusting her abilities. All she knew as that she has the talent and the best place for her to showcase it is the gymnastics arena.
Not all Dipas of the world may get exposed to the best training methods or competition internationally, but they are taken care of by sincere, dedicated coaches working within their limitations.
Now she has prepared her lines well to face the media. Now her coach Bisweswar Nandi is also known to the whole gymnastics world and he, too, is not going overboard about her protégé. Both think and say that qualifying for the Rio Games is only the beginning. They have plenty of wok to do for her to be at her best.
First thing she said was that she has to improve her landing and also work on a few more things to hold her own at the world’s biggest stage. Her gold at the qualifying event in Rio is remarkable and that will give her confidence to raise the bar.
She may say that she will work hard for a medal at the Games, but in her heart of hearts she knows that putting up her life’s best performance is as good as winning metal of any hue. All of a sudden everyone in authority has realised that she has not much time left and the experts in the field, importantly her own coach, will have to quickly decide whether she should go overseas for one last training stint.
In almost all disciplines, the Olympic qualifiers are out training and competing overseas. The government is willing to provide athletes like Dipa the moon at this juncture. Her father, a weightlifting coach at the Sports Authourity of India (SAI) centre in Agartala, knows what’s good for her and he will give the best advice, too.
The exposure she got at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games made her to aim big and her progress from then on pretty steady. She was thrilled to perform on equipment that she doesn’t get to in India. Soon after the Games, some thoughtful babu in the government shifted the equipment to Agartala for her to make best use of it. There is nothing better than getting to train in familiar environs and in Dipa’s case it has proved to be a big boon.
In the next four years before the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, she had come a long way and became the first Indian woman gymnast to win a medal in the Games history.
It was not her bronze that shook the sporting world, but her performing a Produnova made it sensational. It’s not easy to perform Produnova, named after the exploits of of former European champion Elena Produnova of Russia. Among the current crop of gymnasts only five have shown the capabilities to pull it off and Dipa is the third.
The feat is as dangerous as it is breathtaking and she has recorded an impressive score for her daredevilry. She wants it to be a lot smoother and her coach feels there is still a little scope for improvement.
Improve she will, now that she is motivated to win a medal at Rio after winning the vaults gold at the test event, a day after qualifying for the Games.
After P.T. Usha, M.C. Mary Kom, Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal, now Dipa has made Indian women athletes proud. Here is another role model!
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)