Good things come in small packages, they say, and when these packages are studded with gold medallions, they are even more prized. Such is the story of Dipa Karmakar, barely 5 feet tall, who has created a sensation in Indian gymnastics.
After winning individual events in the National Games five consecutive times between 2010 and 2014, including five gold medals at the Ranchi National Games in 2011 at the age of just 17, Dipa scripted a new success story at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games by winning bronze in the vault individual competition. In doing so, Dipa became India's first woman gymnast to win a medal in CWG.
From humble beginnings in Agartala's Abhaynagar to Glasgow, it took Dipa 14 years to put her state Tripura on the international sporting map.
Dipa Karmakar performs on the floor during the women's all-around final of the artistic gymnastics event during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 30, 2014. (AFP Photo)
Now, the just-turned 21-year-old has her heart set on the Asian Games in Incheon, which get underway from September 19.
"Yes, people have high expectations from me, especially after winning the CWG bronze. Such pressure only makes you better," Dipa told HT at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Delhi.
Dipa, who will be participating in the vault, floor, balancing beam and uneven bars events, does not endorse the belief that the Asiad is tougher than the CWG. "If England, Canada and Australia were tough at Glasgow, then China, Korea and Japan will be a big competition for me at Incheon," said Dipa.
Dipa, however, seems slightly worried about her swollen ankle, an injury she had sustained during the Glasgow event.
"Yes, it is a cause of concern. I have been unable to give any rest to the ankle. But I am just hoping and praying that the injury doesn't hamper my medal-winning chances at Incheon," said Dipa, who left for the South Korean city along with 11 other Indian gymnasts on Tuesday.
Despite the injury, Dipa has a slight edge over her competitors. In Glasgow, she secured the highest score on a Produnova, a rarely performed and jaw-dropping vault routine which has been attempted by only two of her contemporaries - Yamilet Pena of Dominican Republic and Fadwa Mahmoud of Egypt.
The vault currently has a high 7.0D-score, and is considered one of the toughest routines to perform.
Recalling her Glasgow performance, the athlete gets slightly emotional. "I know I can do much better. But the kind of reception I got after reaching Delhi and Tripura, it was more than a gold medal for me."
Dipa Karmakar performs during the women's gymnastics vault apparatus final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 31, 2014. Karmakar won the bronze medal. (Reuters Photo)
Dipa, however, believes that the government and sports administrations should provide better infrastructure to the northeastern states, which "have immense talent".
"I firmly believe getting medals regularly at international level is just a matter of time. Players like me who come from small states have talent. It's just that they need a little support from the government and their parents," said Dipa, whose father Dulal Karmakar is a Sports Authority of India weightlifting coach.
Dipa's coach Biswasar Nandi, who has been training her for over a decade now, is optimistic about her chances in Incheon. "Yes, she is suffering from an ankle injury, but I am confident she will bag gold in at least one of the events," he said.