Would you ever think that a small girl with flat fleet will stun the world with her artistic gymnastic skills?
Considered as the main drawback for a gymnast, Dipa Karmakar had flat feet. However, she did not let that stop her from achieving glory. She trained for hours and turned her weakness into her strength.
An excellent example of how hard work always triumphs inborn talent, Dipa made gymnastics a household topic in India. Mind you, that is not an easy feat in a country obsessed with cricket. When she perfectly landed the Produnova vault, she caught the imagination of the entire country.
Dipa Karmakar in action(Credit Reuters)
|Full Name||Dipa Karmakar|
|Sport||Women’s Artistic Gymnastics|
|Height||4 ft 11 in ( 1.50 m)|
|Age||25 years (9th August 1993)|
|Level||Senior International Elite|
|Alma Mater||Women’s College, Agartala|
Dipa was born in Tripura’s capital city of Agartala. Despite having flat feet at the tender age of 6, Dipa and her parents decided to make her the champion in gymnastics. In a state where people struggled for proper food, Dipa had to face lots of challenges when it came to training. In fact, her first vault was on the sections of an old two-wheeler. The next fitness centre Dipa joined did not possess even proper pieces of equipment like a vaulting table. She therefore would put mats together contend in that setting. Since Dipa possed deep intent to be the best gymnast ever, the outside conditions didn’t matter.
Dipa Karmakar with coach Bishweshwar Nandi(Reuters)
Dipa started training under Bishweshwar and Soma Nandi. The husband-wife duo work at Tripura’s sports department. Soma Nandi first realized Dipa’s potential in gymnastics.
It took hours of practice to develop arched feet, but Dipa never gave up.
She believes that coach Nandi changed her life. He has been training her for almost last two decades now and the student has never disobeyed her teacher even once. She accepts that she has argued with Nandi when she was really angry, but listened to her guru after calming down.
The coach is equally proud of his protégé. “Desire, hunger to do well in gymnastics. Dipa has that. She told me once ‘Whatever you want me to do, I will not say no to you coach’,” and except when she loses her temper with me, she has kept her word,” Nandi told Firstpost in an interview.
Dipa is sponsored by GoSports Foundation. It is an independent, non-profit venture started in 2008 to offer expertise and financial aid to Olympic athletes.
Produnova Vault – The Vault of Death
Named after athlete Yelena Produnova, Produnova is the hardest vault performed in women’s artistic gymnastics. Dipa is only the fifth woman in history to land this deadly vault. It involves a front handspring onto the vaulting horse and two somersaults. Many prominent gymnasts hesitate from attempting this vault. Even a single mistake can lead to the gymnast breaking her neck or spine.
Dipa Karmakar at an event(Reuters)
Dipa’s illustrious gymnastics journey started with a gold medal in the Junior Nationals 2008. After that, she again got top honours at the National Games of India in 2011. She should immense class by winning gold medals in balance beam, floor, vault, uneven bars, and for all-around performance. She has more than 77 medals to her name at state, national, and international levels.
Commonwealth Games 2014
- The Glasgow Commonwealth Games will always be very special for Dipa. It was in this championship that she truly arrived at the international stage.
- Her spectacular performance, particularly the Produnova vault, stunned the entire world.
- She became the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth Games medal in gymnastics.
- She got an average vault score of 14.366 and went on to win the bronze medal.
Asian Games 2014
- The Asiads were disappointing for Dipa Karmakar as she finished fourth with a score of 14.200.
World Artistic Gymnastics Championships 2015
- Dipa was the first Indian gymnast to qualify for the championship. She cleared the qualification round with an average score of 14.900.
- In the finals, her two-vault average score was 14.683. Unfortunately, she finished 5th and missed out on a medal.
Rio Olympics 2016
- Dipa became the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for the Olympic finals with an average vault score of 14.833.
- She missed very slightly in the finals and secured the fourth position with an average score of 15.066.
- Though she couldn’t bring home a medal, she became a sensation in the country. People from various parts of the nation showered praise for Dipa on social media.
- In fact, Aneesh Madani, head of sports partnerships at Twitter India said, “Dipa won the hearts of Indians last night and they took to Twitter to publicly share their thoughts, making her the most mentioned Indian athlete at this Olympics so far with nearly 140,000 Tweets about her performance.”
- The whole country celebrated Dipa’s extraordinary Olympic performance! Even her competitor, Simone Biles was all praise for Dipa. Here is what she said, “I did not talk to her much in Rio, but what she has done for the sport in her native country is nothing less than phenomenal. She is a true inspiration for upcoming gymnasts and it is always a great sight for all of us when someone becomes a symbol for the sport in the eyes of so many people.”
Dipa injured her right knee while preparing for the Asian Artistic Gymnastics in 2017. Hence, most of the year was spent in recuperation. She couldn’t participate in any events that year as she underwent a corrective surgery.
She couldn’t attend the Commonwealth Games 2018 qualifiers as well. The injury turned out to be a big setback for the young gymnast and her numerous opportunities because of it. However, now she is fit and fine and all set for the prestigious Asiads. She is even more motivated now, as she wants to make up for the lost chances.
Excerpts from an interview with The Times of India,
“A lot of people said it is extremely difficult for gymnasts to come back after surgery, some were saying I am finished since it was two years after Olympics. But I was ready to go through the surgery after I knew I had an ACL. There are other sportspersons who made a successful comeback. I tried to take it positively and due to the support of my coach, family, physio, SAI, Sports Ministry, GoSports I could make a comeback.”
After a difficult 2017, Dipa made a golden comeback at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup at Mersin, Turkey. She won a gold medal in the vault event, becoming the first Indian gymnast to achieve this feat.
Once again she received a lot of love from Indian fans and famous celebrities. It is truly incredible that the entire country is talking about gymnastics.
The Road Ahead
After her phenomenal comeback, we can only expect more victories for her. The gymnast has broken many records and brought gymnastics to the centre stage. She missed out on a podium finish at the last edition of the Asian Games and will be working extra hard to make for it. It is a bummer that we won’t be able to see her spectacular Produnova, as she has just recuperated from a serious injury. We can’t wait to see what the feisty gymnast has up her sleeve!
Dipa with her proud parents
Dipa’s father, Dulal Karmakar is a weightlifting coach and her mother Gouri is a housewife. Her father was working at the Sports Authority of India and encouraged Dipa to try her hand at gymnastics.
Dipa was very restless as a child. Dulal wanted to channelize her energy into a sport. He also believed that with her overall personality and build, gymnastics will be the perfect sport for her.
Her parents have supported her at every step and are extremely proud of their daughter’s achievements.
Interesting Facts about Dipa Karmakar
- As a child, Dipa had a fear of falling. It was difficult for her to walk on the beam.
- She had practised the Produnova vault more than 100 times before attempting it.
- Dipa practices for more than seven hours each day when preparing for competitions.
- She is enrolled under the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Scheme (TOPS) and received 30 lakhs in funding.
- Dipa gives a lot of importance to education. In fact, she appeared for her MA exams immediately after returning from the Rio Olympics. She is specializing in Political Science.
It was reported by The Hindu that Dipa had received brand endorsements worth upto 35-40 lakhs after the Olympics. Also, Dipa was gifted a brand new BMW 320d car along with her fellow Olympians by the cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar. She sold it later that year due to bad road conditions and lack of service centres in the city.
Dipa grabbed headlines that year by declining a Rs 30 lakhs worth of financial assistance by Sports Authority of India and instead asked for basic vault tables. Dipa also featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia in 2017.
- World Challenge Cup 2018, Mersin – Gold
- Commonwealth Games 2014, Glasgow – Bronze
- Asian Championships 2015, Hiroshima – Bronze
- Padma Shri – 2017
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award – 2016
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I owe my career to my father. Baba never lost a state weightlifting championship in Tripura when he competed. He had only one regret that he could never wear the Tricolor. His only wish of me was to wear the national colours once. Read more about my journey in The Small Wonder. Pre-order link in my bio
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