At the Rio Olympics, diminutive Dipa Karmakar finished fourth in the women’s vault final. However, even for a country anxious to win medals at the biggest sporting stage, it was all about what she achieved rather than what she missed.
Dipa is among four athletes who will be awarded the Khel Ratna on Monday. While the biggest sports award of the country comes as reward for her hard work and focus, the gymnast and her coach Bishweshwar Nandi have already chalked out their future plans.
The coach and his ward believe in taking small but concrete steps. “We aren’t going to bask in past glory, and we are not rushing it. We will take one step at a time. It won’t slow us down but help us reach our main destination in 2020, which is an Olympics year,” Nandi told HT.
The first step is to take a break to recoup, mentally and physically. The last four-five months were very hectic for Dipa, he said. She deserves a good break before starting afresh. “We plan to start our future course of action sometime in November or December,” said the coach.
Dipa’s second step would be to excel at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held in Gold Coast, Australia. In the 2014 edition in Glasgow, she won bronze in vault, a first for an Indian gymnast.
Her focus would then turn to making an impact in the Asian Games to be held later that year in Jakarta. The target would be a podium finish.
The main goal, however, would be the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “We missed a podium finish in Rio. But it was a good learning experience. We need to be more focused in future,” said Bishweshwar, referring to Dipa missing the bronze in Rio by 0.150 points.
In the build up to Rio, Dipa and her coach had learnt to make the most of the opportunities. The Agartala gymnast had exhibited grit and perseverance, and despite having few training weeks under her belt, she didn’t panic and remained totally focused.
She had only three weeks of serious training ahead of the gymnastics test event in Rio de Janeiro, held in the second week of April, where she vaulted to a new high to qualify for the Games.
She only got the chance to compete in the test event because she was a reserve, after two competitors from North Korea withdrew.
She didn’t look back from there, making the most of the opportunity to enter the vault final, becoming a national hero, someone who showed a country with little gymnastic pedigree that it was not beyond if one worked hard.
Although, Dipa will be 26 by the time the Tokyo Games comes around, but she does not want to give up and is determined to cement her place in Indian sports history.