A billion hopes are riding on Dipa Karmakar to sweeten India’s 70th Independence Day celebrations – winning the country its first Olympic medal in gymnastics.
The 22-year-old will be competing in the finals of the women’s vault at around 11.15pm India time Sunday, the Independence Day eve.
She has already made history by becoming the first Indian vaulter and woman gymnast to qualify for Olympics.
Her routine will be tweaked when she will enter the Arena Olímpica do Rio, the Olympics gymnastics venue. She will not open with her famous and dangerous Produnova vault. Her opening act will be the second-most trying routine in the vault – the Tsukahara.
Her coach Bishweshwar Nandi says she has been doing the Produnova well but has faltered performing the Tsukahara. He wants her to give it all and collect as many points as she can.
She faces stiff competition especially from the all-round apparatus champion and the darling of the Games, the pint-sized American Simone Biles.
A little bit of divine intervention won’t hurt.
Dipa’s father Dulal Kamakar, mother Gauri Devi and elder sister Puja are performing special prayers for her.
“We have no tension, but we are waiting to watch Dipa’s performance on television. Not only are we, our relatives and neighbours are equally enthusiastic and tensed for Dipa,” Karmakar, a weightlifting coach with the sports authority of India, said.
Local clubs and social activists across Tripura, the gymnast’s home state, are organising yagnas for Dipa’s success.
“We are organising a big yagna here to pray to almighty so that Dipa wins a medal for the country. If she wins a medal, the entire country would be grateful to her forever,” social activist Sushanta Chowdhury said.
Elder sister Puja said Dipa was always keen on sports.
“But she chose gymnastics once she visited the (government-run) Netaji Subhas Regional Coaching Centre here when she was studying in Class 6,” said Puja, a yoga practitioner.
“We would all spend a sleepless night on Sunday.”
Tripura sports minister Sahid Chowdhury, a former sportsman, said Dipa’s success in gymnastics had made the people of Tripura and all Indians proud.
“From the core of our heart, we wish her good health and victory in the final event on Sunday,” Chowdhury said.
Bijoy Chakraborty, a priest, has also steeped in. “I had earlier performed such puja for Sourav Ganguly when he was the captain… This puja is for pleasing Mangal Devi so that she achieves success. I am performing the puja,” he said.
India has sent 118 athletes, its largest Olympics contingent, to Rio but is still waiting for its first medal as the games enter the final week.
(Dipa Karmakar will be in action in the women’s vault final at 11.27 PM IST on Sunday, August 14)