Commonwealth Games 2018 gymnastics preview: In Dipa Karmakar's absence, Aruna Reddy and Rakesh Patra look to soar high

She may have missed the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics but Dipa Karmakar’s fourth place finish vaulted Indian gymnastics to a new high. She emerged as the new poster girl of Indian sports and her signature vault — Produnova — was the new buzzword among sports lovers in the country.

Injury has prevented her from taking part in this year’s Commonwealth Games but her exploits have generated huge awareness for the sport in India. So when the curtains go up at the Coomera Indoor Sports Centre in Gold Coast for the artistic gymnastic events at this year’s Games, the Indian gymnasts will have an added pressure from the fans back home.

File picture of Aruna Reddy. Image courtesy: Twitter @IndianGymnastic

File picture of Aruna Reddy. Image courtesy: Twitter @IndianGymnastic

Fourteen gold medals will be at stake with Indian gymnasts expected to pose a challenge in the individual apparatus events. All eyes will be on Aruna Reddy who recently finished with a bronze in the women’s vault at the World Cup in Melbourne, last month. The 24 year old is currently training in Tashkent in Uzbekistan trying to shore up her scores for the Commonwealth Games by enhancing her difficulty level in vaults.

Under the new gymnastics point system implemented in 2006, a gymnast is judged on basis of the difficulty in the routine (known as D score) and the execution (E score). The sum total of D and E score is the final score.  Just as Dipa banked on a vault technique called Produnova which is high on difficulty rating, Aruna is working on hand front straight 540 for one of the vaults. “I am looking to achieve difficulty levels of 5.6 to 5.8 in my two vaults,’’ Reddy told Firstpost, desperately hoping for an improvement from difficulty levels of 4.6 and 4.8 which she attempted in Melbourne World cup.

“ I feel there needs to be significant improvement in the difficulty level of the vaults that she had performed in the Melbourne if Aruna needs to pose a strong claim for a medal. Anything less than 5.4 will pull her down,’’ felt Bishweshwar Nandy, India’s well-known gymnastics coach credited to have transformed the career of Deepa Karmakar.

Reddy predicts two Canadians who made the finals of the 2017 World Championship-Ellie Black and Shallon Olsen to be her toughest opponents. Emily Whitehead of Australia had edged out the Indian for a silver medal in the Melbourne World Cup and she will also start as one of the top medal contenders.  Aruna’s journey to the top flight of world gymnastics has been an arduous trek.

Demise of her father, lack of a full time coach and injury issues made her contemplate giving up the sport.  Reddy recalled how GoSports Foundation set up a meeting with Pullela Gopichand and he convinced her to enjoy the sport without being bogged down by the pressures of winning. It is this invaluable lesson which she wants to put to practice before the Games. “Before the competition, I do not want to put extra mental burden on myself by thinking about a medal. I am just looking to put up my best performance at Gold Coast,” said Reddy.

Rakesh Patra’s selection had more twists and turns than his gymnastics routine. But having received the nod to board the flight for Gold Coast after approaching the courts, Patra is focussed on winning a medal in his favourite apparatus — the Rings. The 26 year old finished fourth in the Melbourne World  Cup  and is now currently training in a naval base in Mumbai. His aim is to perfect the Azarian-to-Swallow routine on the rings which will prop his difficulty level from existing 5.4 to 5.9. “ I had picked this routine during the strength training trip to China and if I am able to nail this, I will have a bright chance of a medal,’’ Patra told Firstpost. The other fancied rivals on rings in gold Coast includes Nile Wilson of England and the gold medallist at the last edition — Scott Morgan of Canada.

In 2010 it was a young 19-year-old from Allahabad, Ashish Kumar, who helped Indian gymnastics soar to a new high with two medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. To ensure this performance was not a flash in the pan, Kumar bagged a bronze against a stronger field at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. But in the last few years, the career of the floor and vault specialist hit a road bump. Both his form and fitness nose-dived. He had a wrist surgery last year and thankfully has fully recovered and went on to make the final of the vault event in Melbourne World Cup “He had a sedate last few years but knowing him, he is keen to silence his critics. Despite not being in the best of form, he is still a medal prospect’’ felt former India gymnastics coach DK Rathore.

Besides Kumar, Patra and Aruna, the other members of the gymnastics squad include Yogeshwar Singh, Pranati Das and Pranati Nayak.

Indian gymnastics had its share of controversies with bitter wrangling among its various factions, and confusion over selection and the Indian gymnasts will once again look to rise above the problems to deliver yet another spirited performance at Gold Coast.

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Updated Date: Mar 27, 2018 13:30:21 IST