On the eve of India’s Independence Day, Dipa Karmakar a 23 years old Gymnast was competing against best Gymnasts of the world. She stood fourth securing 15.066 points and missed the Bronze medal by a fine margin of .150 points. Though she failed to win any medal for India but she has definitely won the hearts of millions of Indians. Dipa has been practicing gymnastics since the age of 6 but in India she became a sensational news and topic of discussion only on 7th of August 2016 when she attempted Produnova, the most difficult vault performed in women’s gymnastics. She qualified for finals of women Gymnastics vault event and thereby created a history. The hard work and the sacrifices done by Dipa and her family are exemplary, that if sports facilities and proper infrastructure is available in India then India can also excel and become a champion at International level. In this article we would provide you some interesting facts about Dipa Karmakar and why it is a win for players like Dipa Karmakar, Lalita Babar and Dattu Bhokanal and a failure of Indian sports system and deep rooted politics in sports.
- Dipa Karmakar is the first ever Indian female gymnast to compete in the Olympics. She is also the first Indian gymnast, man or woman, to do so in 52 years. She also created history by winning a bronze medal at Asian Gymnastics Championships and finishing fifth at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
- Since India achieved its independence in 1947, only 11 Indian male gymnasts have taken part in the Olympics (two in 1952, three in 1956 and six in 1964). After 1964 India has never participated in Gymnastics event at Olympics which shows the state of sports particularly Gymnastics in India.
- In 2016 when India is still fighting with Child Marriages, Female infanticide, brutal attacks on women, Dipa became an icon for all those Girls in India who have potential to do something exceptional. By the year 2015 when Prime Minister of India was inaugurating “Beti Bachao Beti Badhao” scheme for girls, she had already made India proud by wining Bronze Medal at 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Britain.
- Dipa Karmakar is one of only five women who have successfully landed the Produnova which is the most difficult vault performed in women’s gymnastics. Even in Rio Vault finals Uzbekistan Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina tried performing the Produnova in which she failed completely.
- Dipa started practicing gymnastics when she was 6 years old and in a sport like Gymnastics it is necessary to start practicing at an early age as the body muscles are flexible. Usually in India parents of a Six year old child are busy searching a school where they can enroll their kids and arranging money for donations demanded by schools. If these things are already done then searching a tuition master is the next big task. Sports doesn’t fit in this schedule and Gymnastics? No way.
- In her childhood she had the problem of Flat Foot. Flat foot is not good for a gymnasts as it affects the jump. Dipa and her coach worked very hard to fix this problem as it was easy for a kid to get curve in her feet than for a grown up child. Credit of her success also goes to her father Dulal Karmakar who is a weightlifting coach.
- From year 2007 to 2014 Dipa won several championships and tournaments. In 2007 she won the Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri. She has won 77 medals, including 67 gold, in state, national and international championships.
- Dipa was part of the Indian Gymnastics Contingent at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In this competition Ashish Kumar won India’s first-ever Commonwealth Games Gymnastics medal. According to Dipa after watching Ashish winning a medal for India she promised herself to win a medal for India in Glasgow Commonwelath Games in 2014.
- Dipa already became sensation when she won Bronze medal in 2014 Commonwealth Games. But we Indian failed to acknowledge her achievement and were probably busy discussing Chennai Super Kings or Kolkata Night Riders.
- Dipa belongs to the state of Tripura. If I ask a simple question to any Indian “What was the last news in which you heard the name Agartala or Tripura”? Most of the Indian will answer “First Commercial Broad Guage Freight Train Arrived in Tripura after Independence”. This shows the connectivity of the state to the rest of India from which Dipa belongs. Getting proper infrastructure, better training, good quality of Gymnastics equipment and other necessary things would have been a challenging task for her as well as for her family.
- Choosing sports as a career and choosing Gymnastics in Sports are two different things in India. Firstly Indian parents won’t allow their kids to pursue career in Sports and if some how they agree they won’t allow for Gymnetics as according to Indian mentality there is no fame or money involved in this sport. So congratulations to Dipa for breaking the myths. You are the biggest star produced in Rio Olympics 2016.
- In India sports means Cricket, every Indian wants to become Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli. BCCI plunges unprecedented amount of money and then there is a glamour of IPL. In IPL auctions new players are sold out at an amount of 8-10 crore while for other sports the money is not even in lacs. So choosing Gymnastics as a career would have been a tough decision for her and we are proud of her that she stood by her decision.
- Apathetic behavior of various Sports Federations of India is also a major reason why India lacks quality athletes. Ashish Kumar is an Indian Gymnast and he created history by wining India’s first-ever medals in gymnastics in 2010 Commonwealth Games. Soon after winning the Bronze medal the Gymnastics Federation of India asked sarcastically “Is this all that you can deliver, a bronze?” Ashish said “Officials aren’t happy, they don’t talk to me. Yesterday, the federation hosted a party but none of us were invited.” It explains why sports can never flourish in India.
- We can imagine the difficulties through which Dipa would have gone as her predecessor weren’t provided proper facility. Ashish Kumar coach said “In Aug 2009, we had no equipment. Ashish trained on hard floor till Feb 2010, and then we got equipment that were around 20 years old.” Similarly Dipa had gone eight months without practice before the World Championships owing to negligence of federation. She learned the Tsukahara in just three months, something her peers had been doing for at least three years. Now Dipa and Ashish have shown everybody that gymnastics cannot be ignored in India.
Anyways despite apathetic behavior from different sports federation, politics at different level and favoritism, lack of transparency in equipment purchase and other factors, India has sent its largest Olympic contingent in this Olympics and we are proud of every athlete who participated in Rio. Dattu Bhokanal was born in a stone-crushing labourer family whereas Lalita Babar belongs to the family of farmers in drought affected areas of Maharashtra. These are the only three names who despite all the odds represented India at Olympics and if we start knowing about whole contingent we would find more Dipa and Dattu. In Olympics there are countries with population less than many cities of India and they are in the top list of medal winners whereas India’s hope is getting faded away as there are now only handful of athletes left. It’s high time to rethink about our sports policy, where it has failed, which section needs improvement and how to bring more money into sports to make it a lucrative career. If we are able to bring the things right on track believe me there are many athletic in India who are ready to put their life at risk for a medal at Olympics, Dipa Karmakar is just the beginning.