NEW DELHI: Eyeing Asian Games glory nearly two years after a rare death-defying stunt in sport's biggest stage, gymnast Dipa Karmakar will still need to overcome the "fear factor" that plays out in the mind of an athlete following a career-threatening injury, feels her coach Bisweshwar Nandi.
A knee injury has kept the 24-year-old out of competition since her historic fourth-place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which she landed her 'Produnova' perfectly enough to emerge among the top eight.
The recovery has been slow ever since she underwent an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) surgery in April 2017, but now she is "almost there", and the Asian Games is still some months to go.
"I would say she is about 90 percent fit now. She will start taking full load from next month onwards," Nandi told PTI.
The coach had pulled Dipa out of the Commonwealth Games trial as she was nowhere near full fitness. She was training back home in Agartala for the past one and a half month but the lack of foam pits meant she was not able to practice with full intensity. Nandi confirmed that Dipa will resume training at the start-of-the-art SAI facility here from this week.
For years, the Indian gymnasts have been without a recognised federation, depending solely on SAI's support. The administrative crisis this time led to a delay in the start of the Asian Games training camp. The competition level at Asian Games will be tougher than Commonwealth Games, where Dipa had won an unprecedented bronze four years ago.
"You will have China, Japan and the two Koreas. They all boast of Olympic medallists. So I can't say whether she can win a medal.
She has to peak at the right time and most importantly leave aside the fear factor that she might get injured again.
"As a coach, I know you can't just erase the injury from your memory. It might prevent you from giving your 100 percent but you have to find a way to deal with it," said Nandi.
Dipa, anyway, will not be attempting Produnova - the vault of death - anytime soon, said Nandi.
"It is not the time to try out something new also. So we have to keep focusing on the old moves minus the Produnova," he added.
GS Bawa, the SAI appointed chief national coach, is more optimistic about Dipa's chances at the Asian Games.
"She is a fighter and despite the fact that she is coming back from an injury, she remains our best bet. The Asian level is higher than CWG but she can come up with a surprise medal in vault," said Bawa.
"No doubt past injuries play on your mind but all gymnasts know that it is a dangerous sport. Anything can happen and you have to live with that," he added.
Other medal hopefuls, Ashish Kumar and Aruna Reddy, are training in Tashkent.