I have watched Dipa Karmakar’s final vault nine times now and even after so many reruns, it’s still mind numbing.
I have been associated with sports writing for some time now and have bore witness to a lot of cracking Indian performances. But today, I am struggling to compare a single performance that matched what the girl from Tripura did last night.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not demeaning any athlete or their achievements.
My first tryst with Olympics was back in 1996 when Leander Paes cavaliered to a bronze at Atlanta. Then, of course, Abhinav Bindra hit the bullseye and then, Vijender Singh, Mary Kom, Yogeshwar Dutt and Saina Nehwal followed suit. But for me, over all these years, Sushil Kumar’s back-to-back medal act has been the greatest show.
Last night, Dipa Karmakar pushed Sushil Kumar to second place. She didn’t win a medal but her performance can’t be measured by one.
Again, am not on an emotional trip.
This Olympics has seen quite a few Indian athletes finish fourth but I, as a sports lover, have never felt so connected and proud of a fourth place. And coming from an Arsenal fan, you know I mean it.
Dipa deserved a medal and it was difficult to swallow the fact that she didn’t get one.
This morning, while scrolling down my Twitter feed, I saw Dipa Karmakar had apologised for letting us down.
I couldn’t have been more ashamed.
The shame gathered strength as I kept scrolling — first came the ‘Oh, Dipa we so proud’ messages, then, the ones that connected Independence Day to her achievement. Finally, came the ‘you go girl’ women empowerment groups.
Everybody was proud. But nobody apologised.
I apologise to Dipa Karmakar.
Even after being in the sports writing business for the last seven years, I had no clue who she was until she started trending on Twitter a month back. Good page views — my first thought. That’s what this business has turned me into – a traffic monger. In the next two hours, I knew ‘5 things that you must know’ about her.
The job was done. Until last night.
It was a sad day for India at Rio. Our biggest medal bets – Saina and Sania – crashed out and the hockey team did what they usually do. Honestly, when I switched channels after a disastrous Arsenal performance, I wasn’t expecting anything. Even after Dipa’s first jump, I shook my head and muttered, ‘there, another failure’.
Then she landed the Produnova. And a slap on my face. I stood up and applauded for the next 40 seconds. It was Avengers level stuff. When Dipa was twirling and twisting her body in the air, my gut wrenched and her landing almost made me throw up in fright.
I have played sport, have fractured ribs, got hit on the head. Heck, I have seen Aaron Ramsey break his leg and Jules Bianchi smash into another vehicle at top speed. I have never been afraid.
Last night, I was.
What Dipa Karmakar did at Rio was unbelievable. But that’s not going to change anything. Every one of us, who are so ‘proud’ right now, won’t waste another single Facebook post on her. Nor will any father ask her daughter not to pursue higher education but go practice the Produnova. Nothing will change because we, as a nation, won’t change. We will outrage on a Shobhaa De tweet but will never pay the highest regards to the sporting heroes of our country.
We will never believe that sport is an integral part for developing a country. We will never understand that this country needs more Dipa Karmakars and PV Sindhus than failed engineers who turn into ‘know-it-all’ narcissist sports writers like me .
We won’t change. Hence, we won’t accept that Dipa deserved a medal but as a country, India didn’t.