India’s ace gymnast Dipa Karmarkar will begin her Olympic qualifying journey at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics Individual Apparatus World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan on Thursday.

Karmakar will be competing in vault and balance beam events for the top honours against gymnasts from 41 countries across the world.

The mega event will have the qualification rounds on March 14 and 15 with the finals to be held on March 16 and 17. Due to the regularisation issues with conducting draws, the FIG has decided to go with spot draws which will decide the order of competing in the qualification round.

Karmakar won the bronze medal at the World Cup in Germany in November last year, prior to which she won gold at the Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup in Mersin, Turkey in July.

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According to her coach Bisweshwar Nandi, Karmakar needs to win 3-4 gold medals in the upcoming six tournaments in order to secure Olympic qualification. With the competition intensifying for the Olympic qualification, Karmarkar will need to score higher than 14.4 in order to stay in contention for a medal.

She is currently joint seventh in the world rankings in vault with 20 points secured from the bronze-medal win in Germany. Gymnasts will make the cut based on top three scores across eight events which are part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualification.

Karmakar will face tough competition from Slovenia’s Tjasa Kysselef and Teja Belak and Mexico’s Alexa Moreno in vault. Australia’s Emma Nedov will be the favorite to win the balance beam gold following her silver-medal finish at the Melbourne World Cup in February.

The Baku World Cup will also feature Uzbekistan’s legendary Oksana Chusovitana who aims to secure a place in what will be her eighth Olympic appearance at the age of 43.

The qualification rounds for the Baku World Cup will be held on Thursday, March 14, 1.30 PM IST (12:00 Local Time) onwards.