It may not have been her signature ‘vault of death’ or Produnova, but Dipa Karmakar’s new routines were good enough to land herself a gold on her international comeback in the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup held in Turkey on Sunday.
“It as a big relief to make a successful comeback. I am happy with my performance as I was taking part in an international meet after a gap of almost two years. But it is just a start and there is a plenty of work to be done before the Asian Games,’’ was Karmakar's first reaction after the gold medal.
The girl from Tripura had created history becoming the first Indian to finish fourth in gymnastics at the Olympics, and kept her date with yet another significant milestone on Sunday — becoming the first from her country to win a gold medal in an international gymnastics event. After the heartbreak at Rio, where she narrowly missed a bronze medal, Karmakar received yet another rude jolt when she suffered a career-threatening knee injury.
She underwent a successful surgery, but Karmakar was out of action for two years, missing out on several big events including the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. The injury also meant she was forced to dump her favourite Produnova routine because her body would not be able to withstand the rigours of the difficult routine.
But at the Mersin Gymnastics Hall on Sunday, Karmakar opted for Handspring 360 and Tsukuhara 720 with difficulty ratings of 5.4 and 5.6 to log an impressive 14.100 and 14.200. Dipa was miles ahead of her rivals in the tournament, with the silver medallist Rifda Irfanaluthfi of Indonesia finishing with 13.4.
“From here on, we have to raise the bar and opt for slightly tougher variations to garner more difficultly rating points as the competition is going to be lot tougher in future,’’ says Bisheshwar Nandi, her coach and mentor who has guided her career since her first steps in gymnastics.
At the Asian Games in Jakarta, Karmakar is expected to perform Handspring 540 with a difficulty rating of 5.8 and a Tsukuhara 900 which has a very high difficulty rating of 6. Produnova has been downgraded in the difficulty scale by the international federation from 7 to 6.4, which means that even if Dipa persisted with her favourite vault, she would not have enjoyed a huge advantage over her other rivals.
During vault, a gymnast has to perform two different routines. In each vault routine, 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 of a gymnast during each routine. The average of the two scores tallied in the two routines will be the final point earned by a participant.
Karmakar's exploits in Rio had made her an instant celebrity and despite her absence from the sport, there was no let-up in the adulation and the stardom. She continues to be one of the pin up girls of Indian sport, credited to have altered the landscape of gymnastics in the country, almost single-handedly. Her gravity-defying Produnova has become the buzzword of Indian gymnastics.
“Dipa was getting frustrated by time taken in her recovery and she was restless to get back to action. But I did not want her to rush as any further injury could prove to be lethal. There were concerns if Dipa would be able to make a comeback. And even if she did, whether she would be able to replicate her success on the vaulting table. But I had faith in her. ACL tear is a common injury among all sportspersons. Even Ronaldo has suffered it and there was no reason why Dipa could not bounce back,’’ explains Nandi.
Unlike the Olympics and her previous appearances in the big events, Karmakar will now have to contend with the additional burden of expectation of an entire nation, which is looking forward to a medal in the Asian Games. “Dipa will not participate in any further events for next five weeks but will undergo rigorous training in India,’’ he adds.
Karmakar bagged a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and finished fourth in the Incheon Asian Games. In Jakarta, she is expected to run against the fancied gymnasts from China, North Korea and Japan. In the last Asian Championships in 2017 held in Bangkok, the gold medal in the vault event was bagged by Liu Jinru of China, who will start as one of the firm favourites in the Asian Games along with Kim Su-jong and Pyon Rye-yong of North Korea. The ageless Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, who turned 43 last month, could also be a dark horse.
Karmakar's leap of faith on the vaulting table in Rio two years ago gave a new lease of life to Indian gymnastics. Her victory on Sunday is expected to help her confidence soar to a new high.
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Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 13:52:50 IST