CHENNAI: One of the most heartwarming moments of the Rio Olympics was when Dipa Karmakar successfully executed a Produnova, landed on her feet, flashed a wide smile and went to hug her coach. Dipa did not win a medal, but her fourth place was a milestone in Indian sports.
But the price to pay for all that has been heavy. The Rio moment was nearly one-and-a-half years ago, but Dipa hasn’t participated in an event since. The girl from Agartala had been carrying a knee injury into Rio and she chose to undergo corrective surgery in April. Soon after the surgery, her coach Bisweswar Nandi had told Express that she would be skipping the World Championships in July and would target the Commonwealth and Asian Games. She would start training in August, he had said back then. But now, the first of those targets has been missed — Dipa will not be participating in the Commonwealth Games that starts in Gold Coast on April 4.
That she would be missing the Games was confirmed when she missed the gymnastics trials that started in New Delhi on Monday. Nandi revealed that while her injury had healed completely, they did not want to take any risks as her knee was still weak. “She has recovered from her injury,” Nandi revealed. “But she only started practicing last month. So we felt that the Commonwealth Games was a bit too soon for her.”
Dipa is now 24 and the Commonwealth Games is the third major international event she has missed after the Olympics — the Asian Championships in Bangkok and the World Championships in Montreal being the other two. Even when she does come back, the nature of her injury poses questions as to whether she can replicate the highs of Rio. Her success so far has been built on the back of the Produnova — the move they call the vault of death. Attempting that with a surgically repaired knee might not be everybody’s cup of tea. But Nandi confirmed that the move will remain part of Dipa’s routine. “We are practicing other exercises now, so she is adding a lot to her arsenal,” he said. “But the Produnova will remain and we will start practising that when her knee gets a lot stronger.”
Dipa had said right after her Rio performance that her long-term goal was a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and Nandi reiterated that still was the case. But Dipa has added a number of short-term objectives to her to-do list. “Returning at the Asian Games is one, but our real target is the World Championships in Doha later this year. She should be fully fit and ready to compete for medals by then,” Nandi said.