After winning return, Dipa Karmakar faces challenges

Written by Shivani Naik | Mumbai | Published: July 9, 2018 12:53:55 am

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Dipa Karmakar is some distance away from returning to the Produnova vault, but the Indian will take it a step at a time if Tokyo is her ultimate goal. (Source: File Photo)

That Dipa Karmakar is charging towards the vault again and scored a respectable 8.7 and 8.6 in execution, without penalty points, should bring an almighty relief to those following the Indian gymnast’s career. The 24-year-old returned from a long layoff, where she underwent a career-threatening knee injury and surgery, to start with a gold medal on the vault at Mersin in Turkey, claiming the World Challenge Cup title with an averages score of 14.150.

The competition was far off the global stage that Dipa had lit up at the Rio Games with her fourth-place finish. But Dipa and coach Bisweshwar Nandi will be happy that the Indian has taken the first step towards climbing the ladder again.

An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction is one of the most challenging procedures to return from, considering Karmakar needs to stick her landings after the flight routine with the knee bearing the brunt. Pulling off a Handspring 360 and Tsukuhara 720 (with one and two rotations respectively in flight for vaults of Difficulty Scores 5.4 and 5.6) to score14.100 and 14.200, were big steps personally, five weeks before the Asian Games.

Dipa is some distance away from returning to the Produnova vault, but the Indian will take it a step at a time if Tokyo is her ultimate goal. The Asiad is not easy at the best of times. But this year, she has to contend with the double task of a changed scoring system and her own gradual comeback.

With the Produnova off the table owing to her knee still being rusty, Dipa has picked two vaults with lower D scores. This automatically takes away the advantage she always started with. Down to 5.6 and 5.4 (though she can add spins and twists to these and hike up scores), Dipa will head to Jakarta without the added heel and springs in her feet of a high scored vault. The Produnova has been downgraded to 6, with effective scores scaling down across the board. So a 14.150 still puts her in the upper percentile of vaulters.

However, one look at the activity of Asian vaulters will point towards a tough challenge for Dipa at Jakarta. At the Asian Championship at Bangkok last year, Chinese Liu Jinru won gold with 14.400. Liu hit 14.485 at the Chinese Championships in May of 2018. Two North Koreans brought up the silver and bronze scores of 14.200 plus at the Asian meet last May, though a pair of Chinese Wang Yan and Mao Yi have consistently hit 14.300 plus scores in assorted meets, including last year’s World Championship. Liu Jinru leads the world mark of 2017 with 14.625.

She will be wary of old nemesis (also idol) Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan. She will also have one eye on the sensational Japanese–who though they haven’t medalled on the vault at the latest Asian meet are logging some mind boggling numbers.

Sae Miyakama last year exploded with a 15.050 vault — and this in the new sobered scoring system, which has seen a dip in everyone’s points. She achieved this at the NHK trophy tournament, where another Japanese schoolgirl Asuka Teramoto scored 14.900. Teramoto has a mammoth 15.000 at an all Japan schools meet, while Mai Murakami is also tearing down14.800 on the vault.

While the Japanese tend to focus on the team and all-around medals, Dipa will recall what Simone Biles fetched up at the Events final on the vault apparatus, blazing away to the gold at Rio. A 14.150 then is just a very good start and Dipa Karmakar has a big leap ahead before she returns to the global vaulting stratosphere.

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