Having recovered from a knee injury, star gymnast Dipa Karmakar is looking forward to doing well at next year's Asian Games even as she remains focused on her long-term goal of winning a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Karmakar, who finished in fourth place in the 2016 Olympics at Rio de Janeiro missing out on the medal by a heart-breakingly small margin, has vowed to better her performance at the Tokyo Games.
Karmakar is undergoing rehab right now because of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury that she suffered during a training session in April. She has started walking again, but won't start training before completing six months of rehab.
The Tripura gymnast has been out of action since the 2016 Olympics and had missed the Asian Championships that were held earlier this year and will also miss the World Championships to be held in Canada in October.
"There is not much you can do in case of an injury. It is frustrating as an athlete but I won't call it a setback. Though it is surely a challenge," Karmakar told media persons here on Thursday.
There has been a rise in interest in gymnastics among youngsters throughout the country since Karmakar's feat at the Rio Games and the 23-year-old is happy that she has been able to inspire the next generation of gymnasts.
"Gymanstic stadiums are filled throughout the country. I have served as an inspiration for the younger generation. I am really happy that the next generation is thinking of winning medals. When we were in their position, we just thought of qualifying for the Olympics," she said.
Karmakar, who was the first Indian gymnast in 52 years to compete in the Olympics, has been spending time at the national camp currently underway at the Indira Gandhi Stadium with her coach Bisweshwar Nandi to work on her fitness levels.
When reminded that gymnasts generally have really short careers, Karmakar asserted that she intends to emulate 42-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan who has competed in a record seven Olympics.
"There was a gymnast from Uzbekistan in 2016 Olympics who was 41 when she competed at the Rio Olympics. She has competed in seven Olympics. If she can do it, then why not me," she said.
Her coach Bisweshar Nandi was also quizzed by reporters on the sidelines of a Tata Tea event held at a city hotel where Karmakar was a special guest.
Nandi threw light on Karmakar's future plans: "Our foremost priority is the 2020 Olympics, and we are also targeting the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games."
Nandi was confident that Karmakar will return to her best form soon.
"I do not think that the injury will affect her perfomance in the future. After reaching a particular level, this type of injury is not a very big deal for a sportsperson. It's not a very serious injury… footballer Cristiano ronaldo has suffered the same injury 14 times," he said.
"Coming back after an injury is a challenge but then you also have to keep in mind that you can get injured also in the competition. Like it happened with one of the participants in Rio. Gymnastics is a dangerous sport at all times."
When asked about Dipa's comeback, he said: "We could have taken Dipa to the World Championships but we want her to be in a position to win the event, we do not want her to just compete and after analysing her situation we have come to the conclusion that she would not be fully fit to compete at the World Championships. We will aim to give her six months' preparation time for the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games."
"We are planning to request SAI to allow Dipa to accompany the team, even if she is not able to compete. At least, she would be inspired," Nandi added.