75 years of independence, 75 iconic moments from Indian sports: No 51 - 2016: Dipa Karmakar’s historic fourth-place finish in Rio Olympics

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.

Dipa Karmakar in action during the 2016 Rio Olympics (File)

Dipa Karmakar in action during the 2016 Rio Olympics (File) | Photo Credit: Reuterś

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.  Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

August 14, 2016: Dipa Karmakar finishes fourth in Rio Olympics

This is one fourth-place finish India lapped up without rueing a missed podium. For one, no one even expected an Indian to first qualify for Olympics in gymnastics.

Hailing from Agartala, Dipa Karmakar had no access to world-class facilities. She, in fact, had trained in the early days with an indigenous vault set-up made of second-hand parts of a discarded scooter. But adversity often brings the best in athletes.

Dipa Karmakar receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award from erstwhile President Pranab Kukherjee in 2016.

Dipa Karmakar receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award from erstwhile President Pranab Kukherjee in 2016. | Photo Credit: RV Moorthy

For the world to take notice, Dipa had to pull off something spectacular and she did. At the vault finals in Rio, where Simone Biles was expected to hog all the limelight, word got around that the 22-year-old from India was about to attempt a Produnova, also called the vault of death – a triple flip to the mat after running full tilt to the vault table.

It was a triple something even Simone Biles said she wouldn’t dare attempt.

Dipa Karmakar, however, began with a Tsukahara 720 and reserved the Produnova for her second vault.

The first vault fetched her a score of 14.866 points and surprisingly kept her in medal contention. The Produnova in her second vault gave her a score of 15.266. For few splendid moments, Karmakar’s named flashed bright in the second spot, before Biles and Russia’s Maria Paseka could complete their routine.

In the end, she finished fourth, just 0.150 points lesser than Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland.

She could have been in the reckoning for a medal had she not landed on her haunches in her risky ‘Produnova’ vault for which she is now known all over the world. Karmakar landed on her feet but then sat down and lost points.

The Indian gymnast then said she was not disappointed at missing out on a historic bronze in the vault final of the Rio Olympics here.

“I never expected a medal from this Olympics but to have come fourth is very creditable. In boxing [and] wrestling you get a bronze even when you finish fourth but not for me. It was very close to medal. After four years, my target would be gold,” she had said after her Rio campaign.

“I’m fully satisfied with my performance. This is my highest score. But the medalists were better than me. Maybe, it was not my day,” a she added.

On the comparison with Indian athletes like Milkha Singh and P. T. Usha, who also had finished fourth, she said, “I feel I am very small, and I’m also much younger. The day I achieve a gold medal in Olympics for India, I would see myself in the same [league as] them. They are all great names. I’m nowhere close to them. I’m very small. I will just try my best to give a medal.”

Having missed bronze by a whisker would however earn her disappointment from her family members and coach Nandi, she admitted. “Everyone else, like my parents and coach will be unhappy, their regret would have been much less had I finished fifth or sixth. ‘But why fourth, and miss a medal, they would ask...’”

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