Paris Olympics: Braveheart Dipa Karmakar ready to give it her all to qualify

Coach-and-father figure Bishweshwar Nandi hopes the 30-year-old manages to stay injury-free

Dipa Karmakar's determination is fueled by her recent top finish with 49.55 points in the Senior Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Bhubaneshwar. (photo: Odisha Sports/X)
Dipa Karmakar's determination is fueled by her recent top finish with 49.55 points in the Senior Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Bhubaneshwar. (photo: Odisha Sports/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

At 30 years and few serious Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries behind her, it will certainly be not easy for Dipa Karmakar to earn a ticket for Paris Olympics. However, the feisty gymnast from Tripura – who has seen several ups and downs in her life since that fourth place finish in Rio 2016 – has made up her mind for one last hurrah.    

What has strengthened her resolve is a top finish in the all-round routine in the Senior Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Bhubaneshwar last week with a total of 49.55 points – though both she and her coach and father figure Bishweshwar Nandi know that the journey has just begun. In what was her first Nationals after eight years since 2014,  Dipa logged a total of 49.55 points with13.40 on Vault, 10.65 on Uneven Bars, 13.10 on Balance Beam and 12.40 on Floor Exercise for her sixth national title. 

There are five World Cups and an Asian Championship between now and Paris, with the first of the world events being scheduled in Cairo in February and Dipa has to meet the qualifying benchmark and perform consistently in at least three to four them to be able to make the cut. ‘’It’s a tall order but it cannot be achieved if the optimism is not there. Dipa wanted to give the Paris Olympics one final shot and it’s my duty to provide her with all the support and guidance,’’ said Nandi, a Dronacharya awardee, the highest honours for a coach in the country in 2016.    

Speaking to National Herald over phone, Nandi sounded a bit cagey about Dipa’s Olympic dreams after a bitter experience last year when the spunky athlete topped the Asian Games trials but was undone on a technicality. After figuring in the provisional list, Dipa was subsequently omitted from the final list of the women’s gymnastics squad for failing to meet the criteria set by the Union Sports Ministry. It stated: “In the individual events during the last twelve months prior to the commencement of the event, the performance of the sportspersons should not be less than the performance achieved by eighth position holder of the 2018 Asian Games in measurable sports.”  

While the sequence of injuries, along with a ban for use of banned substances had come in the way of her participation in the build-up events last time – Nandi prays she continues to remain injury-free this time. ‘’Like any professional athlete, she has her fears about a recurrence of the injury and so do I. However, she wants to give it her all and let us see how it pans out,’’ the coach said.  

‘’I participated in this competition for exposure and I was declared the national champion in the senior all-round. This is my sixth national championship title. After 2014, I participated in it this time. I would like to thank my coach for supporting me. I want to extend my best wishes to those who participated,’’ Dipa told the media at Bhubaneshwar. 

How realistic is it for a gymnast to reach the highest standards again at her stage? While Dipa cites the example of Uzbek Oksana Chusovitina, who at 48 finished fourth at the Hangzhou Asian Games and still nurses a Paris dream, Nandi tried to break down as follows: ‘’See, I have seen exceptional gymnasts between 32-23 years from the UK as well as US. The main issue is that of fitness and we have always already started working towards it in Agartala.’’ 

It will, hence, be a story of remarkable grit and resilience if Dipa manages to qualify for Paris in the first place – let alone make her mark there.  

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