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High vault-age action in store

india Updated: Sep 17, 2010 10:29 IST
Anupma Tripathi

They could not travel to any international meet due to financial constraints for seven years before 2008.

With the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, the government relented and since then, the Indian gymnasts have been to five World Cup series events, two World Championships and a 51-day long camp in Paris.

"The sun is rising for Indian gymnastics," says India's foreign coach Vladimir Chertkov, roped in last year to improve the level of the gymnasts.

The exposure helped four of them break into the world top-50.

Ashish Kumar (world No. 31 in floor exercise), Partha Mondal (31st in parallel bars, 29th in Roman rings), Rakesh Kumar (35th in Roman rings) and Deepa Karmakar (30th on vaulting table) have made the country proud.

These rankings are a testimony to the fact that not only are the Indian gymnasts talented, they are even capable of giving the best in the business a run for their money, if given a chance.

Gymnastics has never been more than a fringe sport in India. But thanks to the efforts of hard-working youngsters and an experienced coach, the picture is changing fast.

Chertkov is rather impressed with the core group and is hopeful the team will rewrite history by clinching a few medals at the Delhi Games. "It seems a miracle to me," says the American. "Normally, it would have taken three-four years to achieve the kind of improvement they have shown in terms of fitness and technique," he says.

"They have managed that in less than two years."

Fresh from the exploits at the World Cup that concluded recently in Belgium, the team is upbeat about its chances. Twenty-year-old Ashish recently completed a hat-trick of senior national titles in the All-round Individual Championship. He also stood seventh in the Team Championship category at the 2006 Melbourne Games.

With 50 gold medals overall, Ashish will carry India's medal hopes and is expected to do well. Teammates like Partha and Rakesh and Alok Ranjan show a lot of promise as well.

Coach’s woes

Chertkov though is not quite happy with the preparations, as his schedule leading up to the Games has not been completely followed.

"Our earlier plan was to train in Pune till the end of August and then train in Delhi at the venue from the first week of September.

But nothing has gone as per plan. The team is still practicing in Pune."

Where’s the home advantage?

The team had been practicing at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune since September last year.

Incomplete stadium and non-availability of equipment, which will be used at the Games, denied the home team a chance to get used to the venue.

"Even the test event was postponed by a month," explains secretary-general of Gymnastics Federation of India (GFI), Kan Singh Rathore. "We had brought the team to Delhi for the event. But the apparatus here was old and we didn't want to risk our players. They went back a dejected lot."

All said and done, come October, the onus will be on the gymnasts to make the sport popular by clinching a few medals and make the country proud.