Midnapore to Tokyo: India’s lone gymnast at Olympics, Pranati Nayak recounts her journey
Hailing from a small village of Midnapore in West Bengal, this gymnast is now headed to Tokyo, Japan. Pranati Nayak is the first Indian gymnast who has been confirmed to represent the country at the upcoming quadrennial event. “I’ve been dreaming of the Olympics ever since I was told about them... From not knowing about Olympics to now qualifying for it, I’ve come a really long way, and I am glad for it,” says Nayak, 26, who is presently training in Kolkata, and hoping to vault into history.
“For almost a year, I had no equipment to practice. For us (gymnasts), maintaining physique and strength is of utmost importance. I’ve now got the information about my qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, which is just two months before the games are set to begin. So I’m doubling up on my efforts, and I’ve made up for the lost time but a long journey remains,” adds Nayak.
One from a “humble background”, she narrates the struggles that her parents had to undertake so that she could fulfil her dreams. “I started gymnastics thinking it was like yoga (chuckles). I used to practice in my village, and do the chakrasana. When I was eight, I got the opportunity to train at SAI, in Kolkata, but didn’t get an accommodation. So, my parents decided to stay with me alternatively, in a rented place. But, when my mother wasn’t home, my younger sister had to face difficulties. And when my father was staying with me, the finances were tough to manage because he couldn’t pursue his job as a bus driver,” she recalls.
“My parents did a lot for me when I was starting out. And now it’s their time to rest and let me take care of them,” Pranati says, confessing that she is certainly facing the performance pressure of being in the Olympics. “Pressure toh hai hi acha karne ka, duniya dekhegi. But I have the support of many people. I wish I could go home, but because of the pandemic I can’t. I’ll now go home after the games, and wish to do so with a medal in my hand,” she says.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika