Till a few months ago not too many knew Dipa Karmakar. In April, she became the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for Olympics. And last month she took the entire nation by storm when she ranked fourth at the finals of women’s vault gymnastics event at the games, missing the bronze by a whisker. However, success hasn’t gone to her head. The 24-year-old Tripura-based gymnast says that not much has changed for her since Rio. Dipa only hopes more children be encouraged to take up the sport.
“That gymnastics is now being taken more seriously post my participation at the Rio Olympics adds to my happiness. Even the government has promised more help and facilities to the gymnasts. In the coming years, India will see more gymnasts flying the Indian flag higher at different sport meets. I am falling short of words to describe the love I have received from the people of this country after returning from Rio. I feel special,” she smiles. However, the pain of missing a medal too is evident in her voice.
“After the results were announced, I went back to my room and cried inconsolably,” says Dipa, who has impressed everyone with her Produnova vault. It was only after her coach Bishweshwar Nandi consoled her that Dipa finally felt better. “My coach has been by my side all through and has been motivating me to practice harder for Tokyo Olympics 2020,” says the Arjuna awardee.
Dipa rues that she hasn’t got enough time to spend at home since returning from Rio. She has been travelling to different cities, meeting people and attending felicitations programmes. “I haven’t got time to stay at home, rest or relish the delicacies prepared by my maa (mother). Guests are dropping in all the time,” says Dipa, who along with Nandi was recently in town to attend a few felicitation events and inaugurate a Durga Puja pandal.
Dipa, unlike many of her contemporaries, is shy. Ask her if she has any special plan this Durga Puja, and she says, “I want to spend time with maa (mother), baba (father) and other family members this Durga Puja in Tripura. But then something might come up at the last minute,” says Dipa, who couldn’t spend time with her family during Durga Puja for the last five-six years.
The gymnast now has her eyes set on Tokyo Olympics and a series of upcoming sport meets and has already started her fitness training. Is she already feeling the pressure given that the expectations of millions of Indians are soaring every day? “There’s no tension. I will do whatever my coach teaches me. I want to practice hard and perfect my skills,” she says.
Naturally, her parents, Dulal and Gita Karmakar, too are basking in the glory of their youngest daughter’s achievement. “Yes, they are happy but they are still saying ‘Oi medal ta peley bhalo hoto’ (wish she had won a medal),” sighs Dipa, who dreams of competing with her favourite gymnast Simon Biles at Tokyo. Gold is what she is aiming for at Tokyo, if not, silver will also make her happy, says Dipa. Fingers crossed.
Watch Dipa in action at the Rio Olympics: