5:37pm, 15th August, 2016
Let me be truthful. I have never watched or followed Gymnastic sports in my life. I was trained for several sports in school as a part of sports activity like throwball, kho-kho, athletics. We had Gymnastics equipment in school where we walked in and wondered who those lucky kids were who were getting trained professionally for Gymnastics but never saw anyone use the equipment. Eventually we realised that we had the infrastructure but we did not have a coach for gymnastics. It used to lie there unused. I have watched some sports for fun … like cricket or football or fencing!!! But I never watched Gymnastics. I had nothing to do with Gymnastics until yesterday when Dipa was to contend in the Olympic Vault Finals.
To be frank I did not know that Dipa was a Bronze medalist in the 2014 Commonwealth Games Vault event. I had no idea that she was among the only five women in the world to have executed the Produnova correctly. What the hell is Produnova anyway?!
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Yet, I switched on the television and watched Dipa perform in the Rio Olympic finals and as the event progressed I felt a sense of pride creeping up my spine and it remained even when Dipa missed a medal by a whisker. So why did I watch her perform? When I didn’t understand anything of the sport? It is because Dipa embodies the spirit of a winner. She is an inspiration to all those who aspire to be successful however adverse their conditions. She would now drive the upliftment of Gymnastics as a sport in India. She will now instill confidence among other budding Gymnasts and allow them to dream big. Dipa’s performance and the history that she has created will become a harbinger of change in the outlook of the Indian sports authorities towards Gymnastics in India.
It is very easy to blame it on the lack of infrastructure available to sports persons specially in neglected sports like Gymnastics. Prior to Dipa’s fame in 2014, gymnastics was only a way for the people from Tripura to get secured jobs under the sports quota. It used to be a leap that can throw you out of extreme poverty. Hence every household sent their children into Gymnastics training. Dipa herself as is now well known trained on vaults that were made out of old scooter parts. Their mattresses used to be tattered and they hardly had the resources to train at a world class standard. The picture looks crystal clear that the government is to blame here. They are saying…’Had Dipa got better training and infrastructure she would have been the Gold medalist today’! And the same has been reiterated in all such sports that have only flourished after an extra-ordinary performance by an underdog. Take the case of Mary Kom, Milkha Singh, Sushil Kumar…the list is endless.
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India has been complaining about lack of worldclass infrastructure for decades now. At every sports event a new sport is highlighted due to a great performance and then that sport becomes a heartthrob for the youth of the country. This is then followed by a spurt of extra-ordinary performances in that sport for a few years as those candidates with talent get the right infrastructure and come up on the global level. Then the infrastructure becomes equivalent to global standards and then the performers in that sport suddenly vanish or start underperforming. Take the case of Tennis, Badminiton, Wrestling, Boxing. After Sania Mirza, several tennis coaching academies sprung up in the country with money flowing in from all directions. Same was the case with Badminton when Saina Nehwal made history in the sport. Not only sports centers but now every housing society had a tennis and badminton court so that the youth of the country had ample infrastructure to pursue the sport. But now there are not many world class players coming up. No extraordinary performers. We always say that countries with a population size equivalent to one of our state have so many world class performers because they have good infrastructure. Think of what India could do with the scale of the population that we have. Sadly that is not true.
Truth is, whether it is sport or any other goal that one is pursuing, when you don’t have enough resources and facilities to your aid you tend to work harder to make your way to the top. This hardwork pays off and you tend to surpass your own limits in your performances. When the infrastructure is made available one starts feeling the taste of luxury and taking it easy on oneself in terms of struggle and perseverence assuming that the world class infrastructure will do the trick for you. One forgets that it is still the hardwork that will crack the nut and the infrastructure is only facilitating a replica of the final experience in the events which one does not get in absence of the infrastructure. Secondly, it is the rule of the transactional world that money is only invested when a potential return on investment is visible. So the country is not going to suddenly create infrastructure for all sports and keep it ready in anticipation of a great performer. It will only invest in someone who has potential. I’m sure and I know that there is a lot of politics and lobbying that goes on in this area and it is not a straight forward road to success but so is the case with any other field or occupation.
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So let’s stop pitying ourselves for what we don’t have. Let’s accept the fact that all winners have to struggle and go through rough times before their hardwork pays off. Let’s be proud of all our ‘Dipa Karmakar’s and let’s stop complaining. With her flawless ‘Produnova’ Dipa has leaped herself and the rest of India’s gymnasts into a better life, a better future. Yelena Produnova may have been the namesake for the gymnastic vault but Dipa Karmakar is the one who has made it a term in every household in India. She has educated the nation of the sport. She is a winner without a medal!
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