Hundreds of people poured out on the streets of Tripura’s capital Agartala to give a rousing welcome to Dipa Karmakar, the first Indian gymnast to take part in an Olympics final, on Monday.
Dipa and her coach Bisweshwar Nandi were swarmed by fans, officials, followers, admirers and well-wishers as soon as they came out of Agartala airport.
As the ace gymnast and Nandi travelled to Swami Vivekananda Stadium - where a huge reception ceremony was held to honour them - in an open jeep, more than a hundred two-wheelers and others vehicles followed them.
Chief minister Manik Sarkar, sports and youth affairs minister Shahid Choudhury, education minister Tapan Chakraborty, forest minister Naresh Jamatia and others were present to felicitate them at the stadium.
Sarkar announced that Karmakar will be promoted as an assistant director and her coach as the deputy director in the sports department. She is currently working as a sports officer and Nandi as an assistant director in the department.
While sports and youth affairs minister Choudhury urged Nandi to help bring more ‘Dipa Karmakars’ in the state, education minister Chakraborty declared a holiday in all educational institutions on Tuesday. However, all university examinations will be held as scheduled.
Arjuna awardee Montu Debnath, who was also present during the programme, said Dipa has honoured Tripura with her performance. “Dipa has entered into the international arena by breaking all stereotypes in this state. I express my heartiest congratulation to Dipa who has made the state proud by her debut in the Olympics,” he said.
A cultural organisation based in Bangladesh also wants to felicitate Dipa for her stellar performance at the Rio Olympics and Nandi for his guidance to her. A delegation from the organisation handed over an invitation letter from Mohammad Syeddullah Miah, a Bangladesh freedom fighter, to Dipa’s parents last Saturday.
Dipa, who exceeded expectations by entering the vault finals in Rio before finishing fourth to miss the medal by a whisker, said her eyes are on the Tokyo Olympics now.
“I am very happy that I have received a grand reception despite I failed to bring a medal for India. Now, my text target is Tokyo Olympics and I will bring a medal this time. I don’t want to lose my podium,” Karmakar, who was swarmed with flower garlands, said.
When asked if she needs foreign coaches, the 23-year-old said she will continue her coaching under Nandi.
“If Indian coaches give birth to Olympic silver winner shutter PV Sindhu and bronze winner wrestler Sakshi Malik, why should I opt for foreign coaches? I will continue my coaching under my Bisweshwar sir,” she said.
Karmakar, who is pursuing her masters through distance mode from Tripura Central University, added she will begin practising after she is done with her exams. She missed her first paper that started on Sunday.
“I am not well prepared for my semester exam. But I will study the whole tonight and will appear for my exam tomorrow morning. I will start my practice again after few days break for my exam,” she said.
Her father Dulal Karmakar said Dipa managed to find sometimes take a look at her notes to prepare for the exam even amid her hectic training schedule in the Brazilian city.
“However, her next paper will be on August 23. So, she will not get enough time to revise her lessons before appearing for the exam,” Dulal said.
Dipa asked her father to collect notes for the semester exam before going to Rio.
“Last month, we went to New Delhi to see her off before she left for Rio. During that time, I had given her all the notes which I collected from her friends. She told me that she would start preparing after her Rio final on August 14,” her weight-lifter father said.
“After Rio Olympics, her next target is to concentrate on her examinations which will continue till next August 30. We don’t want her to spare time for programmes other than her exams this month,” he said.
As several organisations in Tripura want to felicitate Dipa on her homecoming, her parents want them to postpone their programmes until August 30 so that she can concentrate on her exams.
The gymnast was accorded a similar welcome at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi last Saturday.
With her now famous death-defying Produnova vault, Karmakar is currently one of the most well-known gymnasts in the world.