From crash mats to Glasgow: Karmakar keeps flying high

Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:53am EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar

GLASGOW (Reuters) - When Dipa Karmakar launches into her soaring vault at the world championships, chances are that none of her rivals will be aware that the foundations of the skill were built on makeshift apparatus made by stacking several crash mats on top of each other.

On Saturday, the 22-year-old gymnast will get a chance to show to the world just how far she has come since her rather primitive start in the sport when she attempts a daring Produnova vault.

It is a skill so difficult -- consisting of a front handspring and two front somersaults -- that Karmakar is one of only five women to have landed it in competition.

But as the first Indian to qualify for an apparatus final at a global championships, Karmakar knows she has to pull off something spectacular if she wants the world to take notice.

"My coach (Bisweshwar Nandi) was frightened when I first started doing the vault because he thought I could break my neck or end up dead but I was eager to try and push the boundaries," Karmakar, who hails from Agartala in north-east India, told Reuters in an interview in her native Bengali.

"Sir (Nandi) even got a telling off from the team’s foreign coach for allowing me to perform this vault because it was too risky. But my coach and I felt we had to take some risks if we wanted to compete with the best."

Such has been her dedication in perfecting the skill, that she decided to note down her attempts for one week in a diary she keeps. The final tally? -- 127 vaults.

In comparison, American gold medal favorite Simone Biles attempts about 15 complete vaults a week.   Continued...

India's Dipa Karmakar reacts after a successful vault during the women's gymnastics vault apparatus final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble