A historic gold for Dipa Karmakar, but Paris 2024 remains elusive

Now 30 and coming out of a ban and injuries, Tripura's ace gymnast shines in Tashkent

Dipa Karmakar (photo courtesy: SAI)
Dipa Karmakar (photo courtesy: SAI)

NH Sports Bureau

The last weekend at the Asian Gymnastics Championships 2024 in Tashkent brought mixed emotions for Dipa Karmakar, the barrier-breaker in Indian gymnastics. The 30-year-old became the first Indian to land a gold medal in the continental event, though her pursuit of a place at the Paris Olympics now seems a distant dream.

Only on Sunday, the Tripura girl, who missed out on a bronze at Rio 2016, finished on top of eight gymnasts with an average score of 13.566. She logged identical scores of 13.566 in both her attempts, while North Koreans Kim Son Hyang (13.466) and Jo Kyong Byol (12.966) took silver and bronze, respectively.

On Friday, Dipa competed in the all-around category in Tashkent with an eye on Paris, and finished 16th with a score of 46.166, falling just short of the only Olympic quota available at the meet, which went to Emma Malabuyo of the Philippines, who secured third place with a score of 50.398.

Coming out of a series of injuries in recent years and a 21-month doping suspension, Dipa competed in three of four qualification events before Tashkent, in Cairo, Baku, and Doha. She reached the finals in all three, but was unable to secure a podium finish, finishing fifth in both Baku and Doha and a close fourth in Cairo.

Incidentally, Ashish Kumar took a bronze in individual floor exercises at the 2015 Asian Championships, while Pranati Nayak also bagged a bronze each in vault events in the 2019 and 2022 editions. However, Dipa rose to the occasion with a gold in what appears to be the closing stages of her career, and felt she could have ended with a better tally.

"I went through a lot of troubles, injuries and surgeries before I could make a comeback. It was a lot of hard work and I couldn’t have done all this without the support of my coach Bishweshwar Nandi and my family, who have always supported me and stood by my side through thick and thin,’’ Dipa told the Times of India on Sunday.

Dipa’s time under the spotlight began when she finished with a bronze in the same Asian event in Hiroshima almost a decade back in 2015. She also became the first woman gymnast from India to finish with a medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she bagged bronze. The fourth place finish at the Rio Olympics, however, remains the high point of her career.

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