Gymnast Dipa Karmakar became a household name after her stunning performance at Rio 2016 Olympics.
She represented India at many international events and won several medals, including World Gymnastics Challenge Cup gold, Commonwealth bronze, and Asian Championships bronze. She was conferred with Padma Shri in 2017.
In an exclusive interview with NewsBytes, Karmakar talked about her journey, recently-launched biography, Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and more.
When Dipa Karmakar decided to pen her story
Karmakar's biography, titled "Dipa Karmakar: The Small Wonder", was recently launched in January.
She decided to pen her journey after many at Rio Olympics asked her where Tripura is and how she could be at the elite stage hailing from a small-town.
She felt her story needed to be told to inspire people, especially from smaller states, to pursue gymnastics or any other sport.
Karmakar talks about her journey
Karmakar began gymnastics when she was just five-and-a-half years old. Though she had flat feet, a physical feature considered a challenge for gymnasts, she overcame it and mastered gymnastics.
"In 2007, Nandi sir (coach Bishweshwar Nandi) saw the potential in me...that's when we decided...I should give gymnastics a shot. In 2008, I won my first junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri...the rest is history," she said.
Her motivation and role model
Karmakar is the first ever Indian female gymnast to compete in the Olympics.
When asked what motivated her and who her role model is, she said, "My biggest motivation and role model has been the amazing Nadia Comaneci."
"I am in such awe of what she has done to gymnastics and I feel incredibly blessed that she has fore-worded my memoir," she added.
Karmakar on the changes she has seen in Indian gymnastics
On the changes she witnessed in Indian gymnastics since her debut, Karmakar said initially there was a lack of proper equipment and awareness about gymnastics.
She added, "People today know gymnastics...there are also gymnastic academies being made to support and nurture...athletes who want to take up gymnastics.... We are going in the right direction...soon we will be having more gymnasts in the elite category."
Will she perform Produnova at Tokyo Olympics?
Karmakar is one of the only five women who've successfully landed the very difficult Produnova vault.
She said, "In 2014, Nandi sir started researching the Produnova...and started on it just 3 months prior to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I did a thousand Produnova before Olympics."
"We still have to decide on whether we will be performing the (Produnova) vault (at Tokyo 2020)," she added.
On why she skipped the World Cup in Melbourne
Karmakar decided to skip the World Cup in Melbourne and compete in the back-to-back World Cups in Baku and Doha in March.
On how the decision will enhance her chances of qualifying for Tokyo Olympics, she said, "We skipped the World Cup in Melbourne so we could have a little more time to prepare for the other two."
Gymnastics is a risk-prone event, says Karmakar
Vault event is risk-prone and is known to cause spinal injuries. Karmakar said, "Gymnastics is a risk-prone event.... You might never know which event will lead to what injury. As of now, thankfully, I do not have any spinal injuries."
Karmakar reveals her fitness regime
Karmakar said, "When I am preparing for competition, it is usually intense training which also includes rehab sessions. My regime includes a lot of strength training, flexibility, agility, static, and dynamic movements and certain exercises which are specific to gymnastics."
"To ensure...muscles remain flexible and strong I do certain hamstring exercises. My post-training exercises include a lot of stretching and muscle massages," she added.
How Karmakar deals with high expectations and mental pressure
The entire country has high expectations from Dipa Karmakar and is waiting to see her bag a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
On how she deals with such expectations, Karmakar said, "I do not let this expectation pressurize me in any way. We just hope... things go as per plan and we are able to qualify for the Olympics and have a respectable finish."
Request everyone to keep showing love and support: Karmakar
Dipa Karmakar signed off with a message to her fans and NewsBytes' readers. The ace gymnast said, "I would like to thank everyone who has supported gymnastics and me and would request everyone to keep showing their love and support towards the game and me."