Bishweshwar Nandi and his wife, Soma Nandi, had two tough tasks on hand. First, they tried in vain to convince an injury-troubled Dipa Karmakar to give up her plan of returning to competitive gymnastics.
The couple then worked hard to prepare her for the Asian Games selection trials at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
But Dipa, their most famous ward — the first to win several prestigious medals and the one who came agonisingly close to an Olympic medal in Rio seven years ago — had already made up her mind. Soma, Dipa’s first coach, could not say no.
Even after battling injuries — including two knee operations in 2017 and 2019 due to ACL tears, a lack of action during the pandemic, and a 21-month suspension due to a doping violation — Dipa was mentally unscathed. Her determination was rock solid, and she knew she had to make another comeback.
Dipa hired a physio for a month on her expenses, put in five hours of training a day for about two months at Agartala’s NSRCC Indoor Stadium, and, thanks to the cooperation of the Gymnastics Federation of India, appeared in the trials on July 11–12 after completing her suspension a day before.
“I am mentally very strong. Nothing has been able to pull me down. I have remained strong and will continue to be like this,” declares Dipa, who will turn 30 in August, with her enthusiasm intact.
Nandi salutes Dipa’s strong willpower. “There is only one Indian gymnast who has this kind of determination, and that is Dipa. In my view, she should have quit by now, but she said, ‘I want to see how much I can do.’ If her knee was alright, we could have taken on a bigger challenge. We will see what happens now,” said Nandi, after witnessing Dipa compete successfully at the two-day trials and securing the top spot in the all-around competition.
Despite a taped right knee, a dodgy back, and the cautiousness to not aggravate her injuries, Dipa ensured that she did every apparatus at least up to her satisfaction.
“After 2015, she faltered on the balancing beam here (on day one, scoring 10.95). I told her, “Leave it; your leg is not alright.’ She said, ‘No, I will do it again’ (and achieved 11.20). Her determination has brought her this far,” said Nandi, a father figure, mentor, psychologist, doctor, physio, all rolled into one.
Nandi throws more light on Dipa’s trust in him. “She said, ‘Sir, if you say (I can do it), then it will happen.’ She has that much confidence in me. I know how much she can train because she has injuries. I can’t put pressure on her. I fear for her legs. She, too, has the same fear. But we don’t tell each other.”
When Dipa stuck to Nandi’s advice and completed the beam routine on the second day, she punched the air with closed fists and ran to her coach, who planted a kiss on her forehead. As she touched Nandi and Soma’s feet and sought their blessings, the anxiety around the trio gave way to an air of confidence.
The second target for both Dipa and Nandi is raising the bar for the Asian Games in two months. Even though she began carefully doing the Tsukahara 360-degree front and back technique for her most famous event—the vault—Nandi wants her to get back to the more difficult 540-degree front and 720-degree back efforts.
Dipa is not just optimistic about herself but also about the vault practitioners and the sparse up-and-coming talents in the country.
“Our girls are known for vaults. Vault is a special event for Indian girls and a powerful event. Pranati Nayak and Aruna (Reddy) did well after me. I want the juniors to perform well not just in the vault but in all apparatuses. If we have to qualify for the Olympics, we have to focus on all-around along with vault.
“I want our juniors to come up, beat the seniors, and force them to retire,” said Dipa, throwing a challenge at the next generation while continuing to be the flag-bearer of Indian gymnastics.
- Champions League 2023-24: Real Madrid beats Braga 2-1, Rodrygo and Bellingham on target
- Champions League 2023-24: Maguire, Onana lift Manchester United 1-0 past Copenhagen
- Champions League 2023-24: Bayern survives Galatasaray pressure, wins 3-1
- Asian Para Games 2023: Sumit Antil wins gold in men’s javelin F64 event with new world record
- World Cup 2023: AUS vs NED head-to-head record; Australia vs Netherlands stats, most runs, wickets