Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland fetched up in the last pack of vaulters, subdivision 12 of women’s all round team qualification, late on Saturday to prolong the party, and Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s anxious wait. To earn the right to compete in the event final of the Vault on October 31.
At the SECC Hydro in Glasgow, Karmakar was poised to create history — become the first Indian to make the finals on the individual apparatus of the World Championship, on her favoured vault — considered the most powerful of challenges in women’s gymnastics demanding every ounce of strength. She was 6th on the table.
Steingruber, the best of Switzerland’s gymnast was gunning to take her nation into the team event finals, with a spot in the test event for the Rio Olympics also at stake. Mexican Medina Moreno and Russian Seda Tutkhalian were 7th and 8th respectively with the top 8 qualifying.
Dipa — 6th with a total score of 14.900 — reckoned she was reasonably safely through, but not quite. The Swiss miss would add a dash of late drama.
Switzerland needed total of 53.365 on the vault to make the Test Event team ticket, and Steingruber would go for a front 1 ½ twist, very high and clean after sticking her Double twisting Yurchenko, averaging 15.316 and lining up 4th.
All of this played out for Dipa Karmakar in slow motion as the Swiss made the Event Finals, pushing the Indian to 7th.
In that moment, Karmakar could see how far she herself had come as a gymnast. Switzerland were chasing a larger narrative with a pumped up team egging their top gymnast on, a big contingent that automatically buoys you at an event as big as the Worlds. Karmakar was the lone Indian woman representing her nation.
Noone else would stake claims for the finals spot, and Karmakar stayed on 7th creating history to crack into the elite Event Finals – not a mean feat for a girl at a competition which had 87 countries participating. She managed her best score in her fifth outing at the World Championships.
Steingruber had been aiming for Difficulty levels of 6.200 and 5.800 (total assured points of 12.000 if her landings were clean) on her two jumps. She would rely on clinical executions. Simone Biles — America’s all conquering gymnast — would hitch upto 6.300 and 5.600 (11.900) and the Russian and Korean gymnasts (12.700) to form the top half of the eight qualifiers. Dipa Karmakar comes from a country that is virtually a gymnastics newbie, and along with coach Bisweshwar Nandi has taken the audacious decision to augment her difficulty level to the highest — 13.000 (7.000 + 6.000), a gamble taken to earn for herself a level playing field with gymnasts from seasoned countries who can boast of years of fine tuning and perfecting of executions and scientific backups and systems. In taking up the riskiest efforts, Dipa Karmakar had gone for broke. Her first vault — the Produnova — has been talked about worldwide for the dangerous landing it entails — though she has jumped through fire and come out unsinged at every big stage she has vaulted at — the Commonwealth Games last year and the Asian Championship earlier this year. But coach Nandi raised the stakes ahead of the Worlds.
To go along with the Produnova, Nandi ratcheted up Karmakar’s second vault. It would now be the Tsukahara 720 degree turn — stretched with double twist, the second most difficult (6.000) from the Tsukahara family of spinning aerial routines.
“I was very scared when she went for her second jump,” coach Nandi says, adding, “we only started out on this in August when I knew she could take the load of a second very difficult vault. It’s a risk as it is, and without enough repetitions, I’ll always be nervous. But she is brilliant. She was performing this for the first time in competition, but she did well.” She would land standing and 14.700 (8.700 for execution) for her second vault, raising her average score.
The Produnova went with a slight hitch. She would appear to finish in a squat but not quite touch the floor, and there were no penalties. “15.100 out of a maximum of 17.000 is not bad. We’ll keep perfecting it. But she’s gaining confidence.”
Noone launches into a new vault, a difficult one at that, without adequate prepping. For the Tsukahara 720, time was spent in strengthening muscles for the new routine. “We did a lot of specific exercises before starting. She picked up fast and did well. We are putting in everything to win a medal for India. This is history, but we want to show the world, we can go all the way. We’re here for the medal. That was always the intent,” Nandi says.
If she medals at Glasgow, it will ensure qualification for the Rio Games. But by making the finals at the Worlds, Dipa Karmakar has also put herself in contention to be spotted by the international body – the FIG – to compete at a Test event which will also be in Brazil.
“Dipa has progressed a lot since her first World Championship in London. She’s done very well for someone who’s coming from India,” the coach ended.