Upbeat Dipa targets Olympic podium (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Pleasantly surprised by the raptarous welcome in her hometown Agartala following her qualification for the Rio Olympics, gymnast Dipa Karmakar is determined to do well at the quadrinniel extravagenza.

The Tripura girl, won gold in the women’s artistic gymnastics event at the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro last week to become the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. In the process, she also became the first Indian gymnast to win a gold at a world event.

“No doubt life has changed a lot after I returned from Rio de Janiero. I suddenly became so famous. Since returning home, I have been busy meeting people, officials and giving interviews. This is the best phase of my life. I was really surprised to see a huge crowd at the airport. It was really difficult for me to get out of that,” Dipa said.

“Everyone is happy that I won gold at Rio and qualified for the Olympics. I am happy to bring honour to my country and my state,” Dipa said. “I have only one goal right now, I want to do well at the Olympics. I am preparing hard for that.”

“I will go to Rio with the goal of winning a medal. I know it will not be easy, but I will work hard to achieve my dream.”

But Dipa’s tryst with gymnastics was not a case of love at first sight. She did not enter the sport by choice, but was initiated into it by her father, a weightlifting coach at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre at Agartala.

In fact, Dipa’s fear of falling coupled with her flat feet made her intial days in the sport quite tough. She also suffred from flat feet during her childhood, which increased her difficulties. Dipa’s flat feet used to affect the spring in her jump and Nandi had to work hard to bring the arch in her feet. With time, she also managed to overcome her fear of falling and started to improve quite rapidly.

Dipa credited the guidance and encourangement of her coach Bisbeshwar Nandi and father Dulal Karmakar for helping her reach this level.

“When I started gymnastics at the age of six, I was not at all interested in the sport. But my father gave me a lot of encouragement. Whatever I have achieved today is due to the support, guidance and encouragement of my father and my coach,” Dipa told IANS.

“I had worked very hard to qualify for the Olympics. I am happy that I achieved what I wanted,” she added.

“By following my coach’s guidance and listening to his advice, I have managed to achieve the impossible.”

Talking about Dipa’s early days in the sport, Dulal said he wanted at least one of his two daughters to take up sports so he decided to encourage Dipa to become a gymnast.

“Dipa’s biggest strong point is that when she decides to accomplish something, she does not rest until she achieves that. It is because of such determination that she took bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She was the first Indian woman gymnast to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

Dipa won the junior nationals in 2007 which increased her interest in gymnastics. She started taking the sport seriously after watching Ashish Kumar create history by taking a bronze at the the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Four years later in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Dipa grabbed the bronze medal in the women’s vault final. She received an overall score of 14.366. The medal made her the first Indian woman to win in a Commonwealth Games gymnastics event. Later that year in the Asian Games, Dipa finished fourth in the vault final with a score of 14.200.

Dipa admitted that she was inspired by Ashish and thinks of him as her icon.

“When I saw Ashish win a medal at the commonwealth Games, I wanted to emulate him,” she said.

Dipa’s achievement triggered widespread celebrations in her home state Tripura. When she returned home from Rio, there were big crowd waiting outside her house with garlands and sweets.

“Everyone is happy that I won gold at Rio and qualified for the Olympics. I am happy to bring honour to my country and my state,” Dipa said.

Till date, 11 Indian men gymnasts have competed in the Olympics — two in 1952, three in 1956 and six in 1964.

(Monika Chauhan can be contacted at monika.c@ians.in)



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