New Delhi: She rose from oblivion by giving India its first women's gymnastics medal in the Commonwealth Games but heading into the upcoming Asian Games, Dipa Karmakar said heightened expectations have put her under slight pressure for the event in Incheon starting September 19.
The 21-year-old became the toast of Tripura, her native state, after she bagged the bronze medal in the women's vault event, behind England and Canada. "Yes, there is a little bit of pressure this time around. After winning the CWG bronze now, people have expectations from me. But I think it's a positive change of course. I am practising to give my best. I hope that I don't disappoint my well wishers," Dipa told PTI in an exclusive interview.
If CWG was tough then Asian Games might be tougher with gymnasts from China, Korea and Japan hitting the floor but the Agartala-born gymnast differs on that count. "Even Commonwealth wasn't easy. I would rate the Asian Games competition at par with CWG. If England, Canada and Australia were the big guns in Glasgow then China, Korea and Japan will be tough competitors in Incheon. So it's three-all," said Dipa.
Allahabad gymnast Ashish Kumar won an Asiad bronze in the 2010 Guangzhou Games but had a faulty landing in the second vault attempt to finish last in Glasgow CWG. For Dipa though Ashish's achievements are inspiring.
"I hope to get a medal. I am targetting to emulate Ashish (Kumar) bhai's good showing in Guangzhou last time around. We follow the same routine as far as practice and training for a particular event goes. We just follow the regimen, so what we did for the Commonwealth Games, we will do for the Asian Games as well," said Dipa.
In the Asiad, Dipa is hoping to improve the colour of her recent medal when she takes the vaulting table, floor exercises, balancing beam and uneven bars. "Though I am struggling with an ankle strain, which I picked up in Glasgow, I hope I can overcome the pain and win a medal. Remember, no pain, no gain.
"I have been unable to give rest to this ankle of mine. But I am just hoping and praying that the injury doesn't play on my mind to hamper my medal-winning chances in Incheon," she added.
At any point of career, in success or otherwise, Dipa does not forget to thank her coach and mentor Biswasar Nandi. Dipa was six years old when Nandi took charge of her and the ward sure has done him proud.
"I will give all the credit to Nandi Sir. He has been instrumental in taking me where I am. It's his practice routine before any tournament that sets the tone for me," said the young Dipa. "It is Nandi sir's dream to see me getting an Asiad medal and if I can fulfil his dreams it will be my guru dakshina," she added.
Having been with Dipa for 14 long years, Nandi gets emotional while talking about his favourite ward. "I have been with Dipa since childhood and I am very happy with what she has achieved. I have made and seen her practice. We are targeting the Asian Games and if she gets a medal there then I will think that my coaching is a success and my student Dipa Karmakar is also a success. But having said that, our ultimate aim would be to book a ticket for the 2016 Rio Olympics. We are taking it one at a time," Nandi told PTI.
Dipa is also lucky to have encouraging seniors like Ashish, who are happy to share the limelight with the upcoming gymnast. "Dipa getting a bronze in Glasgow has been a definite plus for the sport of gymnastics. It broke the notion that women's gymnastics is not that good. Now suddenly people notice women gymnasts from India and give them a chance. So going into the Asian games she will be motivated with a CWG bronze in her pocket," Ashish told PTI.
"Her medal has also taken some pressure off me. It's good to have a person who is equally popular as you are and the pressure and expectations get divided. It's always good to enter a competition with less pressure," he added.