22-year-old gymnast Dipa Karmakar finished fourth in the vault final with a score of 15.006 – well past her previous best – and missed a bronze medal by 0.150 points. Dipa was at second place after her second attempt at the Produnova but slipped to fourth only in the last month.
Though medal-less, Dipa is being hailed as a hero. Why? Because Dipa Karmakar is the symbol of post-independence India.
Sports is something every Indian is great at talking about. We need to support it, we need to be good at it, why don’t we win medals, and why are you playing, son, why aren’t you at your tuitions for class II?
It’s also something every government is good at talking about. Sportsmen (and women) will be supported, we will have world class facilities, look how much we are funding this, ma’am if you are a former champion and unbelievably poor it’s your bloody fault for not being in men’s cricket.
It’s not that athletics don’t make people rich; it just doesn’t make players rich. Generations of politicians and bureaucrats have gained tremendously from sports that they have done nothing to nurture and a lot to hold back. Any success Dipa Karmakar has had is in spite of them, not because of them.
And what a success it is. Dipa Karmakar succeeded to make the phrase Indian Gymnast recognizable. She has made the vocabulary of another sport somewhat recognizable. She probably has inspired a lot of girls (and boys) to take up gymnastics. That she had to take tremendous risk is our shame. Had she injured herself or, God forbid, paralyzed herself she would be another nobody leading an obscure life. She risked it all for her sport. Her passion.
This is the reality of India. A whole lot of apathy, governments that do more harm than good, but we keep our chin up because we have a steady supply of heroes. They defend our borders, they do exemplary work as professionals, they use their ingenuity to create business, a new way of seeing things, a workaround for expensive tech in medicine, a way to repair a broken machine without expensive spare parts, and one of them taught us what a Produnova is. Our heroes go above and beyond the rational because of what they believe in. Usually for little personal gain.
These are our heroes. They keep us inspired and they create the greatness that India is.