Nagpur: Three girls Dipa, Sakshi and Sindhu hailing from three completely different and diverse states of India have united Indians like never before – I dare say not even when India won the World cup in cricket or the year when two Indians won the Miss Universe and Miss World Beauty pageants simultaneously. Dipa is from the North east state of Tripura, Sakshi from the Northern and agrigarian state of Haryana and Sindhu from the ‘cyber state’ of South – Telengana. You cannot find more diversity than that! But for us Indians, they are the entire country’s daughters who have made us all proud.
There is no mass hysteria this time. There was no bursting of crackers or shouting on the streets, just a queit pride and warm admiration for these girls.
And why not?
Each one of them had fought against impossible odds, attempted the impossible, and still triumphed. Let us look at their stories one by one and applaud them, once again!
The story of Dipa Karmarkar
Dipa Karmakar was born to a weight lifting coach Dulal Karmakar, who is one of the best weight lifter coaches in India. He is very close to his daughter and supports her in every matter of life. Dulal is the first man who recognized his daughter’s ability in her childhood, so he trained his at the very early age of six.
Karmakar, hailing from Agartala in Tripura started practicing gymnastics when she was 6 years old and has been coached by Bisweshwar Nandi since. When she began gymnastics, Karmakar had flat feet, an undesirable physical trait in a gymnast, or anyone else for that matter!- because it affects their performance. Through extensive training, she was able to develop an arch in her foot.
In 2008, she won the Junior Nationals in Jalpaiguri. Since 2007, Karmakar has won 77 medals, including 67 gold, in state, national and international championships. She was part of the Indian gymnastics contingent at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where Ashish Kumar won India’s first-ever Commonwealth Games gymnastics medal.
At the 2014 Asian Games, Karmakar finished fourth in the vault final with a score of 14.200, behind Hong Un-jong, Oksana Chusovitina, and Phan Hà Thanh. After the competition, she said, See, the two top girls here are the gold and silver medalists in the Olympics, while the third girl was bronze winner at the World Championships. So I’m more than happy that I gave them a good fight and finished fourth here.
Karmakar is only the fifth woman in gymnastics history to land the Produnova vault, or the handspring double front. The Produnova is an artistic gymnastics vault consisting of a front handspring onto the vaulting horse and two front somersaults off. The vault currently has a 7.0 D-score, and is the hardest vault performed in women’s artistic gymnastics. In the Olympics women’s vault gymnastics final she finished at 4th position.
As the Hindu newspaper put it -‘For many, the rise of Dipa, who has joined the extraordinary league of Indian athletes — including Flying Sikh Milkha Singh, sprint queen P.T. Usha, Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra and shooter Joydeep Karmakar — in experiencing the agony of missing an Olympic medal by a whisker, may be a freak story from the small border State.
However, for those who are well conversant with the journey of gymnastics here over the last five decades, the 23-year-old’s success is the outcome of a system that was put in place by a dedicated Dalip Singh way back in the mid-1960s.
“It was Dalip Singh, an ex-Armyman from Haryana, who started the gymnastics culture here. He was among the first batch of coaches produced by NIS Patiala. He was trained by Russian trainers and knew how to go about it,” multiple National champion and Tripura’s first Arjuna award winner Mantu Debnath, who also served as a coach, told The Hindu.
“Dalip Singh began his work at the Vivekananda Byayamgar, which had bare minimum equipment for gymnastics. His first prominent student was Bharat Kishore Deb Barma, who became the National junior champion after receiving only six months of training. It had a huge impact then on youngsters like me and inspired us to take up the sport,” said Debnath, who is in his mid-sixties.
Dipa’s coach Bishweswar Nandi, another multiple National champion, is also a student of Dalip Singh and is keen to impart the knowledge he received from his guru.’
Dalip Singh passed away in 1987. Forty years later, his dream has come true!
The story of Sakshi Malik
Malik was born on 3 September 1992 in Mokhra village of Haryana’s Rohtak district to Sukhbir, a bus conductor with Delhi Transport Corporation, and Sudesh Malik, a supervisor at a local anganwadi (health clinic). According to her father, she was motivated to take up wrestling from seeing her grandfather Badhlu Ram, who was also a wrestler. She began training in wrestling at the age of 12 under a coach, Ishwar Dahiya, at an akhara in Chhotu Ram Stadium, Rohtak. Her coach and she had to face opposition from the locals for having taken up a sport not for girls.
Sakshi Malik is an Indian freestyle wrestler. At the 2016 Summer Olympics, she won the bronze medal in the 58 kg category, becoming the first Indian female wrestler to win a medal at the Olympics and the fourth female Olympic medalist from the country.Malik had previously won silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games inGlasgow, and bronze medal at the 2015 Asian Wrestling Championships in Doha.
Malik qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics by defeating China’s Zhang Lan in the semifinal of the 58 kg category at theOlympic World qualifying tournament in May 2016. At the Olympics, she won her Round of 32 bout against Sweden’sJohanna Mattsson and Round of 16 bout against Moldova’s Mariana Cherdivara. After losing to eventual finalist Valeria Koblova of Russia in the quarterfinal, she qualified for the repechage round where she defeated Pürevdorjiin Orkhon of Mongolia in her first bout. She won the bronze medal after a 8–5 victory over the reigning Asian champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan, despite trailing 0–5 at one stage, in the repechage medal playoff, and became India’s first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal.
Malik is currently employed with Indian Railways in the commercial department of its Delhi division, in the Northern Railway zone.Following her bronze medal win at Rio, she was promoted from senior clerk to gazetted officer rank. She completed a master’s degree in physical education from Dayanand University in Rohtak.
When Malik qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, most people had not heard about her. However now the entire country is celebrating her stupendous achievement. However nobody is celebrating more than her parents who can’t believe that their daughter has won a medal against incredible odds. The family is celebrating with music, dance and fireworks as news of her victory has gone viral. Her father is speechless and at a loss for words and her mother is very happy that Malik has ended India’s otherwise dismal performance.
Now prizes and prize money is raining down on Malik. The Indian government and other bodies have announced cash awards for Malik to honor her achievement. People are asking what is Sakshi Malik’s age It is just 23 and she has many years of active wrestling in her yet. She has just got started in her winning ways. In a country crazy after cricket, it is very difficult to pursue any other sport. Neither the citizens nor the government pays much attention to other sports. However all this could change because of Malik. As it often happens, a single sportsperson by his individual achievements can inspire an entire generation to take up that sport. It has happened in tennis and badminton in India. Maybe it will now happen in women’s wrestling. After all, hope flows eternal.
Sindhu, the youngest of the three was born on July 5th 1995 in Hyderabad.
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu was born to P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya – both former volleyball players. In 2000, Ramana was awarded Arjuna Award for his sport. Though her parents played professional volleyball, Sindhu chose badminton over it because she drew inspiration from the success of Pullela Gopichand, the 2001 All England Open Badminton Champion.She eventually started playing badminton from the age of eight.
Sindhu first learned the basics of the sport with the guidance of Mehboob Ali at the badminton courts of Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications in Secunderabad. Later she joined Pullela Gopichand’s badminton academy. While profiling Sindhu’s career, a a journalist wrote:
The fact that she reports on time at the coaching camps daily, travelling a distance of 56 km from her residence, is perhaps a reflection of her willingness to complete her desire to be a good badminton player with the required hard work and commitment.
Gopichand , her coach said about her “the most striking feature in Sindhu’s game is her attitude and the never-say-die spirit.” After joining Gopichand’s badminton academy, Sindhu won several titles. In the under-10 years category, she won the 5th Servo All India ranking championship in the doubles category and the singles title at the Ambuja Cement All India ranking. In the under-13 years category, Sindhu won the singles title at the Sub-juniors in Pondicherry, doubles titles at the Krishna Khaitan All India Tournament, IOC All India Ranking, the Sub-Junior Nationals and the All India Ranking in Pune. She also won the under-14 team gold medal at the 51st National School Games in India.
Sindhu, the two-time World championship bronze medallist, became the first Indian woman player to clinch a Silver in the Olympics and fifth woman player from India to win a medal in lympics. Prima facie, Sindhu appears to be from the most metropolitan family among the three girls – her parents were both sportspersons so she must have had it easier, you would think. Wrong!
For the past many years, then 8 years old Sindhu and her father Ramana would wake up at 3 a.m. to drive 60 kms away to the Badminton academy where Sindhu was training. Then they would make the journey back afterwards.
Her dad who works for the Railways sacrificed his career goals, promotions and transfers to be with his daughter and be there for her. They very recently shifted to a house which is much closer to the academy.
There have been other female trail blazers before in Indian sports. So the girls are continuing with tradition set by many illustrious girls before – and sadly, the authorities and the governments are continuing with their unimaginative and discouraging attitudes.
For instance, Dipa was not “allowed” to take her physical trainer along. the Doctor who is accompanying the Indian contingent is NOT a Sports Doctor but a Radiologist! Why? Because his father is someone very ‘important’ in sports administration!
Why authorities? Even a ‘Celebrity’ comunist like Shobha De has mocked at them and is now trying to eat her words, most ungracefully.
But does it matter to the girls? Not at all. They are focused on their goals and are happy at little things.
Like – Sindhu is going to get to eat curds – the mainstay of any South Indian! – and ice cream, after many months!!!
Enjoy the moment girls – it is not often that we salute our daughters so.