A loud partisan crowd, the biggest sporting stage and a billion expectations -- butterflies were doing the floor routine in her stomach as Dipa Karmakar began her quest for a place in the vault final.
The Arena Olímpica do Rio, the Olympics gymnastics venue, is special for the 22-year-old. It was here in April that she became first Indian vaulter and woman gymnast to qualify for Olympics.
On Sunday, she made history again, reaching the final of the vault event , yet another first by an Indian.
But, she wants more -- a medal at Rio and teammates in Tokyo. “I’m sure there will be more girls, I’m sure that in 2020, we’ll go to Japan with a team,” she told HT, just after her qualifying round.
“I’ve never seen such an atmosphere before,” she said. “It is my first Olympics, a big moment in my life. I was a bit excited going into the event.”
But she had the presence of mind and focus to nail a spot in the final of her favourite event -- the vault.
“I’m very happy that I was able to execute what I had practised,” said Dipa. “I have been to the venue before and it was a good outing. But the atmosphere was different (on Sunday). There were not many spectators at that time. Today was different. It was like a festival. There were so many people and it was so loud that we couldn’t even hear our music.”
“After Produnova, people know me, not only in India but all over the world,” she said. “For instance, during the competition today, Simone Biles (the American gymnast and multiple world champion), came to me and said, ‘good luck, accha karna Produnova’! She mentioned Produnova and I was so happy as she is a high-level player, and here I was standing next to her. Also, everyone wanted to chat with me. So many media persons too... the BBC, I don’t know who else. The other gymnasts asked me why I chose such a difficult vault.”
Named after Russian gymnast Yelena Produnova, the routine is risky as even a small mistake can lead to debilitating injuries or even death.
The move, which involves flipping the body twice in the air before landing, starts with a difficulty score of 7.000, the highest in the discipline. The Produnova is high-risk high-return move that helps a gymnast leapfrog opponents.