Being a gymnast in India is quite unusual. And if you’re one among just five women worldwide to land a near-impossible Produnova Vault and become its top scorer, you HAVE to be exceptional! Meet Superwoman, 22-years-old Dipa Karmakar, an Agartala resident, representing India after 52 years at the Rio Olympics 2016. Incidentally she is the first woman gymnast ever to do so.
Dipa’s life revolves around gruelling workouts and round the clock training. Her efforts have already borne fruit. She won Bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and Artistic Gymnastics Asian Championships in 2015. She now hopes to continue her winning streak at the Olympics bringing home nothing less than Gold! Talking exclusively to Team Nykaa, India’s Olympic gymnast hero opens up about her game, her life and everything in between.
What inspired you to become a gymnast given it's such an unusual choice for an Indian?
My father is a sportsperson and from the very start, he wanted me to approach this sport. Initially, I was flat-footed and it was really difficult for me to get the right spring. But Coach Nandi and I worked extremely hard to get the right curve. Although I wasn’t too interested in approaching this sport when I was younger, winning the 2007 Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri egged me on and I started taking an avid interest as a professional gymnast.
How does it feel to be the first gymnast from India to represent the country at the Rio Olympics after 52 years?
I am extremely honoured and proud. Before this hardly anyone in India knew about this sport, let alone about gymnasts. But now, people know that I have won medals for the country and gymnastics.
Of late, you've been getting a lot of media attention. How do you keep yourself focused?
Being a sportsperson, I take everything in my stride. I agree that I have been getting a lot of media attention recently but that has not affected my game in any way. I practice a lot and keep myself focused by aiming to win Gold at the Olympics.
You are the highest scorer to land the Produnova vault among only five women worldwide. Do you get butterflies before your routine?
Not at all! I am undergoing rigorous training sessions and have increased my difficulty levels as well. As of now, playing for my country and making it proud is my utmost objective and I am not letting any amount of pressure build inside me. I am going to play with a positive mind and that’s it!
How did you feel exactly after winning the Bronze medal at 2014 Commonwealth Games?
Ecstatic! I knew that I had trained my hardest for this event, but still, winning the medal was overwhelming for me. It gave me enough confidence to win a Bronze at the 2015 Artistic Gymnastics Asian Championships too.
Share your training regime with us.
I train from 8.30 am to 12.00 noon and again from 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm seven days a week. I have raised my difficulty levels while practicing and follow a diet chart given by my training institute.
What sacrifices have you had to make to become a gymnast? What role has your family and coach played?
No one has made sacrifices. I am blessed to have my father, Dulal Karmakar, and Coach, Biswaswar Nandi by my side always. My coach took me under his wings, when I was only a six-years-old. Both of them believed in my ability and motivated me to excel. My other family members have also always supported me unconditionally.
Do you have any advice for women who want to excel at sports?
I would only want to say that sport is a difficult genre but not impossible. While women are overlooked at times, you should keep your focus intact and aim to achieve and exceed your own targets. Also, from my experience, parents are your best guide. Listen to what they say and you will never go wrong.
Do you have a gymnast hero, somebody you closely follow as your role model?
Willye White is my gymnast hero of all times. I am motivated by her hardships and her achievements. Also, Gabby Douglas is someone I closely follow and am quite inspired by.