"It was a really tough situation for me"
Dipa Karmakar has suffered numerous setbacks in her gymnastics career which have proved tough for her.
The setbacks came shortly after she finished fourth at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Dipa was labelled the next big thing in Indian sport.
However, in 2017, she underwent surgery for an ACL injury.
The nagging knee injury has prevented her from competing. Dipa missed the World Championships in Germany in 2019 and has not yet been able to secure a spot for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Critics began predicting the end of her career.
Dipa admitted that it was mentally tough but her longtime coach Bisheshwar Nandi helped her remain strong.
She told the Olympic Channel:
“I was preparing very well and very carefully before the 2019 World Championship and despite that, I got injured and had to withdraw from the tournament.
“I was really devastated and I could see people speaking about it being, ‘the end of Dipa’.
“It was a really tough situation for me and my coach Nandi sir because we were really working hard going into the tournament keeping an eye for qualifying for Tokyo as well.
“Mentally it was a very hard phase for me, but Nandi sir has made sure I stay strong and whenever I make my comeback I am at my very best.”
Bisheshwar has been coaching Dipa since she was six-years-old.
Dipa was flat-footed, meaning that her condition was not ideal for her chosen discipline but through intense training, Dipa developed arches in her feet, making gymnastics easier.
She explained: “I share a father-daughter relationship with Nandi sir. I feel very proud and lucky to have him as my coach and mentor.
“He keeps an eye on every aspect of my sport, from my diet to the amount of sleep I am getting.
“Many people tend to think that he’s my father and I have started from zero under his guidance and reached where I am today.
“And I hope, under his supervision and blessings I will be able to make a stronger comeback.”
The 27-year-old revealed that she has been taking inspiration from Oksana Chusovitina.
Oksana, of Uzbekistan, became the oldest gymnast to compete at the Olympics when she took part in Rio at the age of 41 years and two months.
It was her seventh Olympics and Oksana was the only other gymnast in the vault finals to have successfully done the Produnova.
Dipa Karmakar said: “Yes, people speak about the small age window for us gymnasts a lot.
“But I don’t think age plays such a huge role in a gymnasts performance.
“We all should take Oksana as an example; if she can still do so well at the age of 45, then why shall I consider the age factor now.
“It’s all about how fit you are mentally as well as physically and if you have will power to give it a shot, you can definitely do it.
“Apart from Oksana, you’ll find many such examples who have never let age be a factor in their performance and I take them as a motivation to keep my focus only on my work and keep pushing myself to do better in the future.”
The forced break as a result of the pandemic gave Dipa Karmakar essential time to recover from the knee injury.
She resumed training in August 2020 at the Netaji Subhash Regional Coaching Centre in Agartala, Tripura.
While the Tokyo Olympics look to be out of range, Dipa is targeting a return to form at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.