Gymnast Dipa Karmakar would attempt her ''vault of death" at Rio on Sunday night, on the eve of India's Independence Day. While we wish her lots of luck and pray for her success, let us hope no other Indian is forced to become a Dipa Karmakar again. True azaadi should mean there is no other Dipa Karmakar after tonight.
For, the young Tripura girl is a symbol of India's failure, hypocrisy and mediocrity; a poignant reminder of our flawed system that makes a young athlete put her life at risk for a medal at Olympics.
Dipa's journey to the Rio Olympics and its eagerly awaited denouement is the story of India's systemic incompetence.
When Dipa competes in the finals of the Vault event, a country of 1.25 Billion would be hoping that she wins a medal to ensure India opens its account at the Olympics.
The Olympics are nearing completion. In the first eight days, India has not won a single medal. Most of our stars have fallen by the wayside. Many heroes have faltered at the final hurdle.
While countries with population less than that of a few municipalities in Delhi figure in the list of medal winners, Indian hopes now rest on a handful of individuals — mostly brave, intrepid women. If they fail, India will draw a blank.
So far, instead of bringing home medals and glory, the Indian contingent has brought notoriety and infamy, its high point being the management committee's threat to withdraw Sports minister Vijay Goel's accreditation.
How does a nation with almost one-sixth of world's entire population turn into a subject of pity and ridicule at a global event? For answers, consider Dipa's story.
The 22-year-old gymnast is in the race for a medal not because of the coaching, facilities, equipment or because the Indian system helped her reach that level. She is in the hunt because of her decision to put her life at stake in pursuit of success. Others in her place would have given up long ago, but she decided to battle on in spite of a culture that doesn't promote athletes or love for sports.
Dipa performs the Produnova vault at the Olympics. It is a high-risk manoeuvre that just one more gymnast was willing to try at Rio for a medal. When performing the Produnova, she springs with her hand, performs two somersaults and then tries to land on her feet. As Firstpost had pointed out earlier, even a minor mistake can lead to serious injury, including paralysis. Death is also a possibility.
But, gymnasts try this risky vault as it guarantees them seven points because of the difficulty level and even faulty execution gives them a shot at a medal.
Would Dipa have taken this risk if she had access to quality coaching, equipment, social and government support? No. If we were a nation that produced athletes with skills, Dipa would have never been forced to rely on her courage to get ahead of competition.
But, such is India. Here, the pursuit of Olympic glory is contingent on an individual's decision to transcend her love for life, put it below the pursuit of victory in the pecking order.
It was said of Bhagat Singh that every Indian wanted a son like him to be born in India. But not in their own house. The same can be said of Dipa Karmakar. Everybody wants more champions like her in India, but only till they are not their responsibility.
As long as our children compete in the IITs, IIMs, become doctors and accountants, win Jhalak DikhlaJaa or beauty pageants, we are happy to cheer for every Dipa who puts her life at stake for that one precious medal to restore the great nation's glory and assuage its hurt pride.