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Golden Girl, Dipa Karmakar qualifies for Rio Olympics!

To say that Dipa Karmakar has scripted a new high in Indian sporting history would be an understatement. In becoming the first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the artistic gymnastics event, the 22-year-old from Tripura has already become a role model for budding Indian athletes. To put her achievement into perspective, consider that the last time Indian gymnasts made it to the Olympics was 52 years ago in the 1964 Tokyo Games. Add to this the fact that within hours of booking her ticket to the Rio Games this August, Dipa won the gold medal in the vaults final of the test event – another first for an Indian woman gymnast – and we have a star in the making.

But what is truly striking about Dipa’s achievements – which include a 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze – is that they have come in spite of massive odds. Gymnastics being far from a lucrative sport with very little following in India, Dipa had to struggle each step of the way. She had earlier revealed how there aren’t any world class gymnastics facilities in India, putting her at a disadvantage vis-à-vis her competitors. The lack of high-tech equipment means Dipa has to play catch up every time she turns up for an international meet.

Irrespective of the hurdles, Dipa has been fortunate enough to have the support of her parents. Her father, a weightlifting coach, pushed her into gymnastics in a society where even now few girls are encouraged to take up sports as a profession. In any case, Indian women athletes suffer from severe lack of funding and sponsorships. Add to this the bureaucratic ways of sclerotic sports federations. Against this backdrop, Dipa’s Olympic qualification is a huge boost for Indian sports. Government must provide her with all the support she needs to win a medal at the Rio Olympics.