Pranati Nayak has been around for a long time now but this is perhaps the first time the experienced gymnast is shouldering the sport’s hopes all alone.
As the lone Indian gymnast at the Asian Games here, Pranati is glad of the responsibility but also admits having a team around is always better.
“It would have been so much better if the entire team had been together here. But for now, I am the only one here and maybe yes, it is not great news for Indian gymnastics. But this is not the end and I am very sure that all of us will work harder together and qualify for the next competition. To the upcoming gymnasts, I will only say that everyone needs to work much harder to ensure Asian and Commonwealth participation,” Nayak said in an interaction here.
Accompanied by coach Ashok Kumar Mishra, the 28-year old Indian – only the second gymnast after Dipa Karmakar to participate at the Olympics – knows the challenge ahead. Even though she will be participating in the all-round event and the four comprising events separately, she will be expected to do best in the vault – in which she won bronze at the recent World Challenge Cup in Hungary.
“The confidence is high because of my recent medal in Hungary and I will try to do the same here, get a good landing and good points to finish high. The preparation has been good and I have come here fully prepared to give my best in the competition, the target is to get a medal,” Pranati said.
While the qualifying round will be held on September 25, the finals will be from September 27-29, depending on her qualification across various events.
That’s easier said than done – India has only won a single Asian Games bronze in gymnastics, courtesy Ashish Kumar in 2010 – and the questions around selection this time around haven’t helped either.
The government first refused to clear Karmakar’s name despite her topping the trials ahead of the Asian Games, citing performance criteria, then cut the Indian squad strength from nine to one.
Pranati, though, is trying not to think about it.
“I can only say that there is no pressure on me, whether about selection or qualification or having to justify anything to anyone. I am only focused on doing my best here,” she signed off.
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