New Delhi: She became synonymous with the Produnova after her path-breaking show at the Rio Olympics but ace Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar may switch from the ‘vault of death’ to ‘Handspring 540’ at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG).
After the high of Rio Games, where she claimed a historic fourth place finish, the Tripura gymnast has not competed anywhere due to an Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL) injury in her right knee.
She underwent a surgery in April and has already missed the Asian Championship. She will skip the upcoming World Championship in Canada too and return to action only at next year’s CWG in Australia.
Karmakar, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Wednesday, revealed that work has begun to add a new vault to her skills. “There is a Handspring 540 degree turn which could be there (at CWG). It’s a twist movement in the air. In the handspring front movement, it’s the most difficult vault but below Produnova,” Karmakar told PTI in an interview.
Asked why such a change was considered since she is known as the ‘Produnova girl’, the diminutive gymnast said, “I just had an ACL tear so I don’t want to take pressure. My main target is 2020 Olympics. If I can perform this Handspring 540 with perfection I can win a medal (at CWG). Produnova will also continue.”
She figures among the only five gymnasts in the world who have successfully attempted Produnova, named after Russian star Yelena Produnova. Karmakar, winner of a bronze medal in the last CWG edition in Glasgow, also dismissed suggestions that having missed action for long would adversely affect her medal chances in the 4-15 April event in Gold Coast.
“That’s not an issue since it’s all about practice. The standard of competition will be known to me after the World Championship. I will get to know what I need to practice, so I don’t need to compete to know it.
“Maybe I had a grade II tear before the Rio Games and it became grade III after Rio. It’s normal in sportsperson’s life. The only thing is that the my practice time for CWG has been reduced by three to four months.”
Her coach Bishweswar Nandi, who is overseeing her rehabilitation programme, further explained why he chose a new vault for his ward. “She already knows two vaults and now I am teaching her a third one. She can perform any two but which two, that we have not decided. The basic training (for Handspring 540) has begun and after two months she will start performing.
“We will remove one vault. It will be difficult to leave Produnova but it could be (taken off). Let’s see. There are chances to get more points by performing it (Handspring 540) with perfection. But Produnova is Produnova, if you can land perfectly, nothing can beat it, so we won’t leave Produnova.
“It all depends on how she shapes up in the next five months. If she can get perfection, then we will have a choice. Produnova could be there, it could not be there,” Nandi said.
There are five vault categories in the women’s gymnastics and an athlete is required to perform two different vaults to qualify for the finals.
So far, Karmakar has mastered Tsukahara 720 and Handspring double front, which includes Produnova move. “After two months, I can enter the field, the rehabilitation is going well. I have to take my performance back to the top level. It’s been four months that I have not practised. I have begun now and mostly it is swimming, multi-gym, strengthening,” Karmakar, who is pursuing a Masters degree in Political Science, said.
Coach Nandi said it is not because of the knee injury that they have considered leaving Produnova. “Rehab will only make her stronger. She’s out for six months. It depends on her fitness and body movements,” he said.
He also revealed how desperate Karmakar is begin her practice. “When she decides to learn something she will do everything to learn that. After injury, she came to me many times crying and said sir, ‘When will I start training again. I don’t like just sitting when all others are practising’. But I said no, if doctor has advised six months rest, we will start only after six months,” Nandi said.
Asked about plans for her biography, she said, “Again it is my coach’s decision. If he says sit here I will sit, if he says stand there, I will stand. It’s that kind of a relationship with him.”
At 24, she knows what it means to be a celebrity. “My life has not changed but it’s people’s perspective towards me which has changed (after Rio). They know me now, they know my sport. I have got a lot of support from Meraki Sport, Go Sports, SAI and I can’t say enough about support from my coaches and parents,” she said.