India's first Olympic gymnastics judge Deepak Kabra is living the dream in Tokyo

At 33, Deepak Kabra is the second-youngest judge here and is officiating in the men’s gymnastics events. A category-two judge, he arrived here just in time for the Games.

Deepak Kabra at the 2020 Tokyo Games.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Deepak Kabra is living his dream at the Tokyo Olympics, but the lack of flights to the Japanese capital due to the COVID-19 pandemic nearly robbed him of the chance of becoming the first Indian gymnastics official at the Games.

At 33, he is the second-youngest judge here and is officiating in the men’s gymnastics events. A category-two judge, he arrived here just in time for the Games. “Four of the flights I had booked got cancelled and all the other judges had come here four days before me. I’d say it was special to just be able to reach in time and judge my event. I am quite relieved after judging one event – I’ve made my mark at the Olympics!” he tells Sportstar.

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A former gymnast himself, Deepak decided to pursue a career as a technical judge at 21. “I started gymnastics very late. Simone Biles began gymnastics at the age of six and people say she was late – others normally start at four. I began when I was 12! My fundamentals were not great and I knew I wouldn’t go far as a gymnast. So I decided to pursue a role as a judge at 21. I had the level of concentration and knack to study that was required for the role – I was an all-India rank-holder in chartered accountancy. Now when I look back, I am glad that I chose this path because it got me to the Olympics in 12 years,” he says.

Deepak Kabra with Dipa Karmakar after her gold medal triumph at the Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup in 2018.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Deepak began his international career at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and has officiated in 20 global events including the Youth Olympics, Gymnastics World Championships and the Asian Games. And he’s one of the few privileged to see Biles in action from close quarters.

“A gymnast’s total score is based on the level of difficulty they attempt and its execution. The difficulty level is based on the move performed by the gymnast and execution is how they perform it. You need to balance both to achieve the highest final score and get a better ranking.

 

“The higher the level of difficulty, the more points you are awarded. Simone’s difficulty level is the highest among athletes. Some of her moves (which are often named after her) are performed exclusively by her – no one in the world can even dare to do that. When it comes to execution, you have a default of 10 points and points are deducted from that based on the mistakes the athlete makes. The extraordinary aspect about Simone is that she performs even the most complex movements with such beautiful execution. For example, in the vault, her difficulty level was six and was able to perform it with a minor deduction of 0.4 point (during her second vault attempt in the qualification round on Sunday).”

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For context, India’s Pranati Nayak, who was the sole Indian gymnast at the Games, got a 1.5-point deduction on a vault with a difficulty level of 5. “Even 0.1 point can decide medals,” he adds.

Having worked in legal portfolio management and corporate finance at Reliance Industries for eight years, he made the full-time switch to sports to join Reliance Foundation Youth Sports. He now aims to upskill himself to a category-1 judge.

“No judge from India has ever done that. Only the top 25 judges in the world are given category-1 certification. That’s where I want to be,” he says.

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