Daring Dipa vaults into final, creates history

Improving on her status as the first Indian woman ever to make it to the Olympics in gymnastics, the 22-year-old Dipa Karmakar from Tripura made the vault final of artistic gymnastics at the Rio Olympic Centre here on Sunday.

BENDING OVER BACKWARDS: India's Dipa Karmakar made the cut for the vault final in the artistic gymnastics in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

The first Indian woman gymnast to win a medal in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian championship, Dipa had braved a hairline fracture in her ankle to finish fourth in the Asian Games in Incheon two years ago.

Dipa has been riding on the ‘Produnova’ vault to scale new peaks in her already well documented career. It was ‘Produnova’ that worked once again, catapulting Dipa into the Olympic final which will be held on August 14.

Even though Dipa finished eighth as the top eight made the cut for the medal round, her 7.000 for ‘difficulty’ with the ‘Produnova’ was best among the 59 who went through the all-around exercise. American Simone Biles, who topped in three of the four, including the vault, had only 6.300 for difficulty even though she was brilliant in execution with 9.700.

Dipa eased on her second vault which fetched her 14.600 points for an overall average of 14.850. That was just good enough to help her pip Brittany Rogers (14.783) of Canada.

Un Jong Hong (15.683) of the People’s Republic of Korea, Giulia Stengruber (15.266) of Switzerland, Maria Paseka (15.049) of Russia, Oksana Chusovitina (14.999) of Uzbekistan, Shallon Olsen (14.950) of Canada, Wang Yan (14.949) of China were the others to qualify ahead of Dipa, behind Simone Biles, among the 19 who attempted the vault.

There will be a stiff fight for the medals. Biles will be attempting to win the US its first vault gold and fourth ever medal in the event.

The Olympic champion in Beijing in vault, Hong Un Jong of Korea will try to join Vera Caslavska, who won in 1964 and 1968, as a multiple winner in vault.

The seasoned Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, the only gymnast to compete in seven Olympics, like Leander Paes in tennis, can become the first sportsperson to win an Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics for three different countries.

The 41-year-old Chusovitina had won the team gold for the USSR in 1992, silver in women’s vault for Germany in 2008.

She had competed for Uzbekistan from 1996 to 2004 Games, and for Germany in the last Olympics, before returning to Uzbekistan this time.

There will be a lot of competition to get into the history books, but Dipa, coached by Bisweshwar Nandi for long, will try to sneak her way through.