Dipa Karmakar has already made history by becoming the first Indian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic final at Rio, and a medal of any kind in the vault event will make her a new role model for the generation next.
Her journey as a gymnast in a country like India with little exposure to the sport is extraordinary, but she hardly started on that road.
To start with, the Sports Authority of India refused to take in a five-year-old Dipa as a trainee because she had flat feet.
“She was told she could not become a gymnast because of flat feet. Then she came to me at Vivekananda Vyayamgar (in Agartala). After two years, I sent her to my husband (Dipa’s current coach, Bisbeshwar Nandi). He worked on her feet and prepared her for gymnastics,” Soma Nandi, Dipa’s first coach, told HT from Agartala on Monday.
Flat feet is an issue in gymnastics as they reduce the springiness in the feet, and affect takeoff.
To overcome the defect, Dipa was put through many strenuous exercises. One them was standing with the foot bent, to create the arch in the feet.
“She was average in the beginning, but I found her improving by the day. And she was, and still is, stubborn. I think that is why she reached where she did at Rio,” Soma, a SAI coach, said.
Soma sending the young girl to train under her husband proved the key as the Netaji Subhash Chandra Coaching Center, where he was posted, had a modern gym.
Dipa’s father Dulal Karmakar, a weightlifting coach in Agartala, says all credit for his daughter’s impressive showing in Brazil should go to Bisbeshwar Nandi.
“Even we were not aware that she was flat-footed. Bisbeshwar has done a miracle. He worked on her feet with all dedication. See where she is now,” Dulal Karmakar, who has attended over 500 phone calls and bought 10kg milk to offer tea to visitors since Monday morning, said.
“The entire media is outside my house. I don’t know how many cups of tea my wife has served so far. My phone has not stopping ringing. People have been coming non-stop to congratulate our family,” he said.