Dipa Karmakar was the darling of India’s campaign in Rio, though falling short of a medal by a whisker. The 23-year-old has been conferred the prestigious Khel Ratna this year, along with three other athletes, for her display of grit and determination at the Olympics.
While the awards and the accolades have been flooding in since Rio, Karmakar and her coach, Bisweswar Nandi, are keen to get back on the path they have chalked out for the next four years leading to the Tokyo Olympics.
The coach as well as the athlete believes in taking small but concrete steps forward. “We aren’t going to bask in the past glory, and we aren’t rushing. We would take one step at time. It wouldn’t slow us down but help us reach our main destination in 2020, which is an Olympic year,” Nandi told HT.
The first step is to take a break and recoup both mentally and physically. The last four-five months were very hectic for Karmakar, he said. She deserves a good break to recover and start afresh. “So we plan to start future course of action sometime in November or December,” added the coach.
Karmakar’s immediate goal would be to excel in the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Australia (April of that year). In the 2014 CWG in Glasgow, she had won a bronze in vault. It was the first medal by an Indian woman gymnast at that level.
Then her focus would be to make an impact at the Asian Games to be held in Indonesia later in 2018. The target would be to finish on the podium of the competition which will feature the best in the world.
Her main goal, however, would be Tokyo. “We missed a podium finish in Rio. It was good learning experience. We need to be more focused in future,” added Nandi.
In the build up to Rio, Dipa and her coach had learned to make most of the opportunities. And they stuck to the same plan, perfecting the risky Produnova vault that would ensure big points for the gymnast.
The Agartala based gymnast had exhibited grit and perseverance in the months leading up to Rio. She had not qualified for the Olympics and was not going to get a chance either. But her luck turned for the better and she got a chance to compete at the gymnastics test event in Rio de Janeiro in the second week of April after two gymnasts from North Korea withdrew.
Despite having just a few weeks of training under her belt, Karmakar didn’t panic and remained totally focused. She vaulted to a new high in the event, landing the Produnova, to qualify for the Games.
From then on, there was no looking back for Karmakar as her confidence soared. At the Games, she again focused on her pet event and made it to the vault final, becoming an overnight sensation and a national hero in the process.
Karmakar doesn’t want to stop now. Her aim is to cement a special place in Indian sporting history. She has already done a lot to garner some much needed attention to the plight of gymnasts in the country. With limited facilities, equipment and funding, she almost did the impossible.
In four year’s time she is confident of going that extra mile as well.