Dipa Karmakar, India’s spunky gymnast, continues to rise in standings picking her second major bronze medal internationally, this time at the Asian Championships at Hiroshima last weekend. One of the rare practitioners of the Produnova vault (Difficulty highest at 7.000) across the globe, Karmakar is steadily improving her scores and achieving consistency. Still in pursuit of the perfect landing, the Tripura gymnast who turns 22 on Friday, is excited about the possibilities that qualification for the Rio Games would open up for her. Here she talks about the journey from Glasgow, the happy venue for her maiden CWG medal to Glasgow, where she will compete at the World Championships aiming for a podium.
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How important was this win at Hiroshima?
It was the first time I was participating at the Asian Championships and I won a medal in my first outing. The score (14.725) was better than what got me the Commonwealth Games medal (14.336) so I have improved. If not for the deductions it could’ve been even better – 14.988 on the first Vault and 14.812 on the second. The other medallists from China and Japan were past Youth Olympic champions and come from countries with very high global standards. I was the only girl doing the double front (Produnova) and the Chinese coach walked upto me and appreciated my effort.
What are the specific improvements?
In the Tsukahara 360 – my first vault, there was a lot of technical improvement needed. The body balance, the pike position, the feet were bending and not going smoothly over the back. I had wobbled a little in my turns at the CWG last year, but I’m improving on the spins. In the second vault – the Produnova, my leg used to bend a lot, I’m working on that. And my landing is all-important, I need to improve further.
Are the deduction penalties a concern?
The difficulty for my second vault (Produnova) is the highest, but the execution is very important. Deductions from penalties are costing me marks. Even this time, I could’ve won silver if it wasn’t for a penalty. At the Asian Games too, I could’ve been second had my hand not touched the floor. My landing needs to improve but the only way to get it right is by practicing. Hundreds of repetitions will make it perfect, there is no other way.
How was the lead-up to the Asian Championships?
Our national camp was shut for 8 months so I couldn’t train during that time in Delhi so a lot of time was lost. I got only two months since June and it’s good I resumed quickly and won a medal despite the brief training time. In Tripura there is no foam pit for landing the risky routines, so I couldn’t go through the entire workout. In Tripura me and my coach worked on basics.
Why was there no camp for 8 months?
That, we don’t know. My coach said our job is to keep practicing whichever way is possible, so we took this opportunity to really perfect my basics. Gymnastics has a lot of small things and we thought we might as well use the time to work on those basics. There’s no point sitting and brooding, there’s always a hundred things to do instead of sulking. I prepared for the Asian meet for two months and delivered a medal.
Do you think you need to go abroad to train?
No other coach in the world except Bisweswar Nandi would’ve encouraged me and trained me for the risky Produnova routine. Without him I’d never have reached anywhere. Now there’s no need to go abroad, I have everything that’s needed in Delhi.
You’ll return to Glasgow for the Worlds where you first won the CWG medal. Your thoughts?
A medal is necessary at the World Championships to qualify for the Olympics. I really think it is possible. The first time I went to Glasgow at the same venue (Hydro SECC) was the first time I’d attempted the Produnova in competition. The medal was a good confidence booster, but now I want more success. I’m working very hard, so I don’t want to stop believing that even a World medal is possible. I’ve been to the World Championships three times, and my best showing was at Nanning last year where I finished 10th (14.483), and was in the reserves for the final. My confidence is high. After the medal at Hiroshima, my team-mates were all celebrating and people came to receive me at the airport in Delhi. When I go to Tripura I know people will be delirious. But the World Championships is the big meet.
ROUTE TO RIO
Apart from the World titles, Glasgow is also crucial for individual qualification berths to both next spring’s Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) and next summer’s Olympic Games. The top 24 teams from the 2014 World Championships in Nanning last year will compete in Glasgow, where the top eight men’s and women’s teams from the team qualification round will automatically earn team berths to the Olympics. Teams ranked 9th through 16th will advance to the Rio Test Event in April 2016, where the top four teams (also from the qualification round) will also punch their ticket to the summer Games.
Gymnasts who earn a medal in Individual Apparatus Event Finals in Glasgow also qualify directly to the Games, provided they come from a country that has not already qualified a team.
Teams ranked 17th-24th at the 2015 Worlds will be allowed to send two individual gymnasts to the 2016 Test Event, while other national federations with a gymnast who participates in All-around qualification at the World Championships will earn the right to send one gymnast to the Test Event based on the gymnast’s ranking. In this way, 40 male and 40 female gymnasts will qualify to the Test Event in Rio.