Dipa Karmakar won the hearts of everyone watching the Olympics tonight.
The 23-year-old from Tripura, the first woman gymnast from India to qualify for the Olympics, didn’t win a medal, but ranked an impressive fourth position in the women’s vault finals in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 14. American Simone Biles took the top prize with a final score of 15.966. So far, India is yet to win any medals in this year’s Olympics.
Karmakar received a final score of 15.066 for executing one of the most dangerous feats in gymnastics, the Produnova vault. Named after Russia’s Elena Produnova, who first performed it in 1999, the move has been performed successfully by only five people in the world, including Karmakar. It’s considered one of the riskiest routines in the sport, often referred to as the “vault of death.”
But that doesn’t scare Karmakar who spent years preparing for this day. She began her training at the age of six, unfazed by the flat feet she was born with. In the years leading up to her stellar performance in Rio, Karmakar racked up a total of 77 medals in various domestic and international competitions, including a bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
All this despite the difficulty of raising funds for quality equipment and advanced training in India, where sports like cricket get all the glory. Under the watchful eye of her longtime coach Bisbeshwar Nandi, Karmakar initially practiced her moves in a ramshackle gymnasium using makeshift equipment made from discarded scooter parts and crash mats.
All that hard work has paid off though, as India now has a new sporting legend.