My target is to win an Olympic medal: Karmakar

The 22-year old gymnast from Agartala, who last month became the first Indian to make an event final at the World Championships, chats about her domain of expertise, and her professional aims, which include the Commonwealth Games 2018.

“Rio is 50-50 for me (she's placed in ther reserves, leaving her participation uncertain) now so my next target is Commonwealth 2018.”: Dipa Karmakar   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

In many ways, most success stories in Indian sports are partly human interest stories. If it is in gymnastics, an obscure sport for Indians to take up, it's most certainly to be one. The tale of Dipa Karmakar is one such.

“Initially people thought gymnastics was circus,” she said. “I come from Agartala, Tripura, which is a very small city. Some people in India are not even aware where it is. Some think it’s in Bangladesh. It hurt a lot.

“Also, when I started, there weren’t many facilities in my hometown. I didn’t even know what gymnastics was all about. My father wanted to be gymnast but couldn’t. So he wanted to realise his dream through me. He wanted me to make the nation proud.

The last two years has seen her take confident steps towards achieving that. And with every success she has gained visibility. She won a bronze medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth games, with perhaps the most difficult of vaults, the Produnova, and as recently as last month, she became the first Indian to make an event final at the World Championships before going on to finish fifth.

“Now they feel it is a sporting discipline. They believe we can enter the final round of a World Championship, Commomwealth Games or Asian Games. I think the next generation will be able to even do well at the Olympics.”

The remarkable thing about the 22-year-old is that she remains unfazed amid spotlight. Neither does see seem to be overawed by the fact that she has competed with the finest of gymnasts and managed to make a mark. “Not much,” she said when asked if there is increased pressure now to perform. “It motivates me to achieve things. My target is to win a medal at the Olympics and I’m working really hard towards that.”

“It actually feels great to hear people talk about India because there was no one for a long time. I was training with the United States team before the World Championship and their coach was praising me a lot. In fact when I finished fifth, the ones above me were Olympic medallists.”

She missed qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics by a whisker, 0.5 points to be precise. That has placed her in the reserves and her participation is now in the hands of the sport’s international body. Yet, she remains unperturbed.

“Rio is 50-50 for me now so my next target is Commonwealth 2018.”