No one knows whether Dipa Karmakar believed in the old adage “Smile when it hurts most” but her resplendent smile after missing out on what would have been a path-breaking medal in Indian sport belied the storm brewing up in her mind.
Back in the Games Village, it was difficult to control emotions as she wept inconsolably. Her coach and father figure Bishweshwar Nandi was also crestfallen.
“After she returned to the Games Village, Dipa was inconsolable. Missing the bronze by so less a margin will remain the biggest regret for us,” coach Nandi said.
Amid an outpouring of emotions, Dipa and her coach spent a quiet evening at the Games Village consoling each other and talking in “ifs and buts”.
“Yes everyone was happy but to us we lost a world, and by the narrowest of margins. It’s the worst Independence Day that we could have had. I’m the saddest coach of earth. This regret will be hard to forget.”
In the women’s vault final, Dipa’s average score was 15.066 from her two vaults of Tsukahara-720 and Prudonova where she logged 14.866 and 15.266 respectively to finish fourth behind Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber who logged 15.216.
Her effort was a big improvement especially in the ‘death-vault’ of Prudonova which has the maximum difficulty level of 7.000 and Dipa would score about 15.100 out of a perfect 17.
“It was the best jump in her career, she was so perfect but judges were not convinced may be by the landing as she went a bit low.”
But it’s the best they could have achieved as the duo had a timing of about three months after Dipa qualified for the Olympics at the Rio Qualifying Test event at the same place.
“We got about three months time to prepare against the other gymnasts who have been training through out the year,” he said of Dipa who is the only female gymnast from India to compete in Olympics and a first since Helsinki 1952.
Asked whether foreign training or coaches could be an option looking ahead, Nandi said: “I’m totally against foreign coaches. If we can do, what’s the need of others? We just need to stay fit and have proper facilities to keep herself in proper shape for Tokyo 2020.”
Nandi however was full praise for the Sports Authority of India for providing all the facilities the duo needed ahead of the Olympics.
“We could not have asked for more,” he said.
Dipa would be 27 by the time of the Tokyo Olympics and Nandi said age would not be a factor.
“The biggest challenge would be to not lose focus and maintain the same intensity over the period of four years. In gymnastics, one can be at the peak till 32,” he said citing example of Uzbek’s 41-year-old Osaka Chusovitina who finished seventh on Sunday.
They would write to the government to seek facilities in Dipa’s hometown in Agartala and Nandi expects a positive response.
“We want to revamp the gymnastics facility in Agartala and this effort will give a huge boost to the sport in the region.”
But for now, it’s about coming out of it and start off well in the World Cup in Hungary.