CHENNAI: It was September 2016 and all the euphoria over Dipa Karmakar’s near-miss at the Rio Olympics was dying down. Back in Delhi, her coach Bisweswar Nandi was mulling over his ward’s future. The Produnova routine — the death vault as they call it — had served Dipa well, medals at the Asian, Commonwealth and World level proof of that. But it was set to be devalued, an attempt by the world body to discourage mediocre gymnasts from taking unwarranted risks for a high score.
Being a one-trick pony wasn’t the way ahead. “I have a few other options for her in mind, that we’ll execute when her training begins. We will need to work on more than just the Produnova,” he had said back then.
Now Nandi has found the perfect routine for Dipa and the duo are ready for another crack at glory. They call it the Handspring 540. It’s slightly less difficult (and less riskier) than the Produnova but still sufficiently high-scoring.
“We are still going to do the Produnova,” Nandi told Express. “It’s not like we are replacing it. This is one additional exercise we’re learning. It’s less points than Produnova. It’s 5.80 and Produnova is now 6.40 (down from the 7 points a well-executed one could fetch at the Olympics). But she’s still learning it.”
The Commonwealth Games in Australia next April is the immediate target. The last edition of the event was where she broke through into public consciousness, winning a bronze from out of nowhere. But the ultimate aim, as has always been the case since last year, remains the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But first, there is the small matter of getting back from her injury. The Tripura girl has not competed since the Olympics, preferring to go under the knife for a knee injury — a Grade 2 tear that became a Grade 3 tear in Rio, according to Dipa. That was back in April and she’s near the end of a long rehab now. “Four months are already gone, two more months left now,” said Nandi. “After that, we have to get back to practice. We have to slowly build fitness back up. Only after I feel she has done that, will I phase the Produnova back into her routine,” he said.