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Dipa Karmakar: First Indian woman Olympic gymnast

Reporter: Jyothy Karat 丨 CCTV.com

08-08-2016 19:42 BJT

Full coverage: 2016 Rio Olympics

Dipa Karmakar has made history by being the first woman gymnast in India to compete at the Olympics. The 22-year-old qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics after successfully completing the Produnova with a score of 15.6 at a test event for Rio. It's one of the hardest vaults and has a difficulty rating of 7. Dipa Karmakar clinched the eighth and last qualifying place for the vault final.  In today's Olympic series, ON YOUR MARKS, we head to India to learn more about her Olympic journey.

It’s considered the hardest and riskiest vault in women’s artistic gymnastics.
But on April 19, 2016, this young gymnast from India took the leap and performed the Produnova.
22-year-old Dipa Karmakar won gold stunning a nation, and becoming the first Indian female gymnast to qualify for the Olympics.
Her story begins here in her hometown Agartala, the capital of Tripura in north-eastern India.

“When Dipa came to me in 2001 or 2000 or thereabouts, I didn’t think she could be a gymnast. I had some senior girls with me also and as I trained them together, I realized she (Dipa) was very interested and like that, we reached here," said Dipa's coach Bishweswar Nandi.

A sport scientist from the Sports Authority of India once declared Dipa unfit for gymnastics because of her flat foot.
But her coach refused to give up and trained her for the next 15 years.
Those years hadn’t been easy. Despite the limited funds and lack of support, the Dipa-Nandi team managed to plod through, winning national medals and qualifying for international events. But qualifying for international events were not good enough for the ambitious team. They decided that they would have to do something extraordinary to get noticed. Dipa won her first international medal, at the 2014 Commonwealth Games by performing the Produnova. After winning national medals and qualifying for international events, Dipa and her coach decided they would have to do something extraordinary to get noticed.

"In gymnastics, girls have to perform in four events. Vaulting horse, balancing beam, floor exercises, uneven bars. So I do all four and I will perform all four during the Olympics too. But this (Produnova) is my specialisation. Just like everybody has a specialisation, there would be this one thing they are really good at. I’m better at vaulting horse than others. So I’m concentrating on that so I can perform better and score higher. But I’m also practicing the other three events so that I perform well and I get a good score," said Dipa Karmakar.

The Produnova vault consists of a handspring and two somersaults before landing on the feet. The risk of death in case of a faulty landing is so high that only seven women in the world have attempted it so far.

The North Korean gymnast Choe Jong Sill first attempted the vault in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Nineteen years later, Russia’s Elena Produnova perfected it, and the vault was named after her. Attempts at the Produnova had since failed… until Dipa Karmakar came into the picture.

"Please look, to achieve something, it is necessary to take a risk. This is why I took the risk. I thought that, if I learn this vault, I could achieve something. So I learnt this vault and I got a higher score than in other apparatuses and qualified for the Olympics," said Dipa Karmakar.

As the 2016 Games approaches, hopes are high that Dipa would bring home a gold.

“It was a moment of pride for me when she qualified for the Olympics. But, to say the truth, there is a lot of pressure right now. From the country, from the media everybody is expecting a medal," said Dipa's coach Bishweswar Nandi.

But Dipa doesn’t seem worried.

“There is no pressure. I want to go to Rio and give me best performance. That is my focus," said Dipa Karmakar.

As the nation hopes with bated breath for Dipa’s victory, a mother waits for her daughter’s return.

Dipa, meanwhile, is preparing to take one more leap for her country.

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