An article appeared on these pages in August 2015 about Indian woman gymnast Dipa Karmakar, when she won a bronze medal at Hiroshima’s 2015 Artistic Asian Gymnastic Championship. Dipa had finished third in women’s vault and brought glory to India. Now she has done even better. On April 18, 2016, the 22-year old Tripura girl created history by becoming the first Indian gymnast to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and hours after that, she celebrated her Olympic berth by clinching the gold medal in the test events at Rio de Janeiro. Never before an Indian had done that and therefore Dipa’s extraordinary feat is worthy of praise and all-round appreciation.
Before the gold medal came in the vaults finals on Monday night, Dipa was busy trying to collect the required points for Olympic qualification. She began with an extremely difficult double frontal vault, called Produnova and 15.066 points dropped in her kitty. There were 14 competitors trying the same but Dipa was first among them. After the Produnova, Dipa went for uneven bars and slipped somewhat in the reckoning, since 11.700 points in uneven bars pushed her down. Just when she looked like losing the Olympic race, Dipa went for the beam exercise and logged 13.366 points and followed that up with another 12.566 points in floor exercises. With that, Dipa’s all-round total became 52.698 points. That was enough to push Dipa into top 30 and Olympics’ artistic gymnastics berth was hers.
While the nation celebrated her fantastic and historic achievement, Dipa had her own celebration a few hours later. She reached the vaults finals in the test event currently underway at Rio. Among a crowd of celebrated women gymnasts, the 22-year old Dipa scored 14.833 and that took her to the top of other participants. It was rare gold medal for an Indian gymnast in a global event. The gymnasts were allowed two attempts and Dipa’s best effort came in the first try itself. She scored only 14.566 in her second and last try but that was inconsequential.
Dipa will not only be the first Indian woman but first Indian gymnast ever to have qualified for the Olympic Games after 52 long years. The last time India sent a gymnast to the Olympics was in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, where 6 male gymnasts participated. Earlier 3 male gymnasts went to the 1956 Melbourne Games and 2 participated in 1952 Helsinki Olympics. But Dipa will have the distinction of being the first Indian woman to have ever qualified for the Olympic Games. As per a list released by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), Dipa has been listed as the 79th gymnast among individual qualifiers in the list of women’s artistic gymnasts for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Ironically, Dipa didn’t have much preparation time before coming to the test events at Rio. She was informed on March 18 after two North Korean gymnasts had withdrawn from the competition. But the Arjuna Award winner Dipa Karmakar was undeterred and focused more on her vaulting skills and traveled to Rio with high hopes. Everything, thereafter worked out to her advantage. India will be proud of watching Dipa in action in August this year at Rio de Janeiro, where she would do her best to bring further glory to the nation.