In the history of Artistic Gymnastics Vault and in the history of Indian Gymnastics, Dipa Karmakar became the first woman gymnast to earn a name worldwide. She became the first Indian woman gymnast athlete to capture the world’s imagination and become a ‘trending’ topic ahead of the Olympic games in Rio. Known famously for attempting the dangerous Produnova Vault and successfully completing it, she has earned a huge fan base including the currently world best gymnast Simone Biles of the USA, who herself won four gold medals including a prolific victory in Dipa Karmakar’s Vault category. Biles went so far as to say that the famous Produnova Vault should be renamed ‘Karmakar Vault’.
In 2014, at the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, Dipa Karmakar attempted the Produnova Vault, which is often referred to as the ‘vault of death’ and happens to be the hardest vault ever performed in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. This was the act that paved Dipa Karmakar’s way for her qualification to the 2016 Rio Olympics and she won a Bronze medal for the country and made every Indian proud. She also made India proud by becoming the first Indian woman ever to qualify for the Olympics. She also won an another Bronze medal at the Asian Gymnastics Championship 2015. To honor her achievements the Government of India conferred upon her the Khel Ratna Award in August 2016 along side PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Jitu Rai.
A country where sports meant no more than Cricket, Dipa hailing from Tripura, a state which many even fail to point out in the Indian map, turned heads around with her magnificent world class performance and successfully turned the eyes of the uninterested country towards her sport. Firstly, she happens to be one among the five women to have ever attempted and successfully completed the vault. First being the woman after whom it is named Yelena Produnova of Russia who did it in 1999, Yamilet Pena of Dominican Republic, Fawda Mahmoud of Egypt, Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, and Dipa Karmakar of India, who has the highest contemporary score in what is easily the second neatest execution of the vault.
Let us tell you why is Produnova Vault called the ‘vault of death’. It is infamously the dangerous vault. It has a difficulty rating of 7.0(the highest rating of all vaults) and when not executed perfectly, runs the risk of splitting gymnast’s spin in half or injuring him/her permanently. It consists of a frontal handspring onto the vaulting horse and two front somersaults off. Knowing that attempting this was a risk, yet she still went on with it in Commonwealth Games and completed it successfully. On asking why did she decide to do it was because if she hadn’t attempted something so risky and done it right, she would have disappointed herself little that her country would care and her sport would once again go unnoticed by the people of her beloved country. In fact her performance of the vault is a true inspiring story and the decision to go ahead with it in Glasgow.
Dipa is a great fan of Simone Biles and said Biles is by far the best gymnast this world has produced, she is a champion and proves herself both on and off the mat. They met on practicing grounds one day while in Rio when Biles told her that she had seen Dipa performing Produnova vault and encouraged her to participate more in tournaments to expand her techniques and also called her Produnova vault as ‘Karmakar vault’. The most successful gymnast in America’s history told Dipa, that the Federation International de Gymnastique(FIG) should consider re-naming the Produnova vault to the ‘Karmakar vault’. While she thinks Simone must have been joking, we really like the sound of it. But either way Simone’s pep talk boosted Dipa with massive confidence which we did see in the performance at Rio where she missed the Bronze medal merely by 0.15 points but did win a billion of hearts.
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