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Rio 2016: India’s first female Olympic gymnast inspires a nation


Dipa Karmakar, India’s first female gymnast at the Olympics, may have just lost out on a medal but she won the hearts of a nation with her vaulting performance.

She finished fourth in the women’s vault gymnastics event on Sunday with a score of 15.966, just 0.15 points behind the bronze winner.

India has yet to win an Olympics medal at the Rio 2016 games.

But her fourth place did little to stop the outpouring of support and praise for the athlete on social media.

“It’s not about winning medals,” said Shekhar Kapur, an Indian film director on Twitter. “It’s about breaking through all stereotypes and proving you are there with the best. You inspire us all.”

Thank you #DipaKarmakar for getting us united at midnight cheering for Gymnastics, in a country with no infrastructure for this sport,” said cricketer Virender Sehwag. “Super proud”.

Another user on Twitter added that Ms Karmakar had united the country.

“From left-liberal to internet-Hindu we all came together for Karmakar. Never forget.”

Ms Karmakar said she was not disappointed with her performance.

“I never expected a medal from this Olympics but to have come fourth is very creditable,” Ms Karmakar told news outlet First Post. “For me this is my first Olympics, but I don’t need to be disappointed. After four years, my target would be gold.”

Ms Karmakar was only one of two gymnasts to perform the Produnova vault, widely known as one of the most dangerous feats in gymnastics.

It is often referred to as the “vault of death”.

The move consists of a front handspring off the vault, followed by two and a half somersaults.
When asked if she would attempt the move, star US Olympian Simone Biles reportedly told The New Yorker, “I’m not trying to die”.

Ms Karmakar completed the move and landed on her feet, but then reportedly sat down- causing her to lose points. However, she said that she was pleased with her result.

“This is my highest score in Produnova. I am very happy with my vault. I gave my whole effort to bring an Olympic medal for my countrymen. But it was tough luck.”

Ms Biles took the top prize in the vault, with Maria Paseka of Russia coming in second and Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland taking the bronze.

Gymnastics does not receive much funding from the government of India, with Ms Karmakar earlier telling the BBC that she competed in her first gymnastics competition without shoes and in an ill-fitting costume.

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India won six medals in the 2012 Olympics, with four bronze and two silvers. Much of the country had been banking on Ms Karmakar to bring its first win. She has promised to bring a medal home in 2020.

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