Coach Nandi: ‘Dipa Karmakar is about 90 percent fit now’

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 ACL surgery in April 2017, but now Dipa Karmakar is “almost there” and the Asian Games is still some months to go.   -  PTI

Eyeing Asian Games glory nearly two years after a rare death-defying stunt on 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 the ‘Produnova’ perfectly enough to emerge among the top eight.

Karmakar's recovery has been slow ever since she underwent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery in April 2017, but now she is “almost there” and the Asian Games are still some months away. “I would say she is about 90 percent fit now. She will start taking the full load from June onwards,” Nandi said.

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The coach had pulled Karmakar out of the Commonwealth Games trials as she was nowhere near full fitness. The gymnast had been training back home in Agartala for the past month and a half, but the lack of foam pits meant she had not been able to practise with full intensity.

Nandi confirmed that Karmakar will resume training at the state-of-the-art Sports Authority of India facility in New Delhi starting this week. Indian gymnasts have been without a recognised federation for years, depending solely on SAI’s support. This time, the administrative crisis led to a delay in the start of the Asian Games training camp.

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The competition level at the Asian Games will be tougher than Commonwealth Games, where Karmakar 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 per cent, but you have to find a way to deal with it,” said Nandi.

Karmakar, anyway, will not be attempting the Produnova — also called 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."

G.S. Bawa, the SAI-appointed chief national coach, is more optimistic about Karmakar’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 the CWG, but she can come up with a surprise medal in the vault,” said Bawa.

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“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.