Why Dipa Karmakar’s Feat is What India Needed

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Kamarkar is a trailblazer, who had to fight hard to reach her goal. Read on to look beyond her success story.

We live in a nation where gymnastics is not and has never been considered as a serious sport. Few Indians strive to be gymnasts, but Dipa Karmakar did, and at Rio, she gave us something amazing to gawk at. Someone said “You never win the silver, you just lose the gold.” This saying deems a person’s achievement as substantial, only when pitted against someone else’s. What we need to understand is that solely beating somebody else should not be the parameter of success. This is why Dipa Kamarkar’s 4th position is of such great importance to Indians. She embodies the aspirations of a marginalised breed of sportspersons, striving to excel against an inadequate sporting infrastructure and viewership for their sport. She has won the competition in her own rights.
For starters, having flat feet, she was deemed by doctors as being incapable of turning into a world class athlete. She persevered any way and didn’t let it get in way of her Olympic pursuit. Her father Dulal Kamakar quoted in The Indian Express, “It hasn’t been easy for her. Initially, we didn’t have the equipment. She practised on discarded second-hand equipment. The first vault she practised on was made using the parts of an old scooter. The Sports Authority of India had rejected her and told her that she’d never be a gymnast because she was born with flat feet. With each medal that she won, her resolve grew stronger. She refused to take ‘no’ for an answer,”
Even after bagging a bronze at Glasgow, Kamarkar was refused a personal physiotherapist at the Rio Olympics even after coach, Bishweshwar Nandi requested for it. It was only when she placed 8th in the vault qualifiers, that the Sports Ministry flew a personal physiotherapist to Rio for her. Until then, she had to rely on the Indian contingent’s physiotherapist. None of her gymnastics contemporaries had to face this, the US gymnast team is so vastly popular that they even have a nickname, ‘the fearless five!’
Even at the finals, she was one of two participants who performed the Produnova or the ‘vault of death’. World number one, Simone Biles said, “It’s insane! Just simply insane. I would never attempt it.” Coming from a marginalised nation, Kamarkar had to take the risk of executing the manoeuvre which measures 7 in difficulty level. One wrong move on her part could have been life threatening. The Produnova, which distinguished her from the rest, is a symbol of the obstacles she has had to jump over to attain an Olympian status.
Amidst Indian ministers who have attracted global attention for their “aggressive and rude behaviour” at Rio, we have witnessed how Karmakar has sprouted into a model of resilience, perseverance and hard work against an effete sporting system. At 23, she has directed the glares of the Indian media towards a marginalised sport and Indian gymnasts finally have someone to look up to for hope and inspiration.

Photo Credits: indianexpress.com

Swareena Gurung
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