Striving towards a long shot medal in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics, Dipa Karmakar was pleasantly surprised when she was informed of a gold pin she was to receive from the international parent body for being a ‘World Class Gymnast’ after her showing at the World Championships in Oct-Nov 2015.
The Mumbai-based Gymnastics Federation of India received an airmail recently from the Federation de Internationale de Gymnastique secretary general Andre Gueisbuhler informing them of the ‘Gymnaste de classe mondiale’ distinction bestowed on the Indian gymnast who finished the vaulting apparatus finals on 5th position.
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It is awarded to the top 30 qualifiers in multiple apparatus events or to event finalists at Worlds and is a once-in-a-career induction into gymnastics’ elite. “It’s common for gymnasts from Russia, US, Japan and China. But it’s a big thing for Indian gymnastics,” Dipa’s coach BS Nandy said.
“I was happy and emotional when she qualified for Rio, today I am proud. It’s like whole of India’s good wishes are with this girl,” said the coach who lost close to 5 kg worrying and sleepless the night before his ward’s Olympic qualification was formally announced. “I’ll never forget that stressful night when I lost all that weight till 7.30 am the next day!” he recalls.
Karmakar who has stayed calm and poised through her meteoric rise, finally was keen on celebrating the success. “She asked me if she should throw a party for her gymnastics friends. I told her Chup raho, pehle Olympics ho jaane do! Bahot kaam pada hai.
“I know it’s harsh. But you have no clue how much more practice is needed. Every other country has been training and planning for four years. So we really need to work very hard,” he said.
Practice is 8 hours daily with a month left to go for Rio Games. “Our routines are dangerous and complicated. But repetition brings confidence. There’s no short-cuts. Just practicing over and over again,” the coach added.
What’s helped Dipa Karmakar, hailing from the state of Tripura with its rich tradition in the sport and rudimentary infrastructure – just enough to dream big – has been the posting of Ram Nivas Gupta as Project Officer, Sports Authority of India, at IG Stadium. “Things clicked because he himself was a former national gymnastics champion. He procured equipment for us without delays,” Nandy says.
The coach is taking it a step at a time. Somewhere between ramping up predictions of a medal in gymnastics and completely ignoring the first-time woman qualifier from India, lie Dipa Karmakar’s chances, according to the coach.
“We have to keep in mind what she’s up against. My job is to take her into the final. From there, anything can happen. But right now I’ll be happy with a final,” he says.
The ceremony of handing over the pin is supposed to be a formal do, as instructed by the world body. The coach though deliriously happy, is keen on keeping all emotion in check and focus on Rio – a venue where Karmakar earned her qualification and won a maiden test event medal. ‘World class,’ she might have been anointed, but coach and his charge are determined on going well beyond that in a month’s time, hoping the pin is a harbinger to a podium.