The first person Dipa Karmakar thought of after qualifying for Rio Olympics was her father. “Have qualified for Rio,” Karmakar wrote in a SMS to her father, Dulal, after she became the first Indian woman to book a spot in the Olympics, on Monday.
The national Arjuna awardee barely had any time to prepare for the qualifying event. She was informed about her participation on March 18 after two gymnasts from North Korea withdrew from the competition.
Undeterred, Karmakar utilised her vaulting skills -- an artistic routine performed by gymnasts -- to book a place in the prestigious Olympics. “She vaulted to a new high,” veteran coach GS Bawa said.
Road not taken
But Karamakar’s journey to the Olympics has not been an easy one. Despite finishing fifth at the at the World Artistic Gymnasts Championship held in Glasgow in October 2015, her performance didn’t get much attention back home.
“Things have changed for the good,” Karmakar’s father said. The sports ministry has offered her funds by including her in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), a government initiative that provides financial support to potential medal-winners.
The sport of gymnastics in India has been plagued with politics, with three factions fighting to take control of the gymnastics federation. The sports ministry has no plans to recognise the federation, an official said.
Karmakar has beaten these odds to win laurels for the nation at various competitions. She won a bronze medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and she was the first Indian woman gymnast to feature in the finals of World Championships - also held in the Scottish city in November last year. Karmakar finished fourth in the vault final of the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon and announced her arrival on the big stage in 2011 when she won five gold medals at the National Games in 2011.
Karmakar has now set her eyes on a podium finish at the Rio Games to be held in August.
The 22-year-old garnered a total score of 52.698 points in the Olympics qualifying event on Monday to book a berth for artistic gymnastics in Rio Games.
“It is a good feeling to win a gold medal,” Karmakar was quoted as saying at the official facebook page of the International Federation of Gymnastics.
“My next objective is an Olympic medal podium,” she said.