Cancellations of a series of World Cups, which were part of the Olympic qualification programme, has all but evaporated the chances of Indian gymnasts, including 2016 Olympian Dipa Karmakar, qualifying in this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Two World Cups have been cancelled while a third one, originally scheduled to be held in March, has been postponed by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) because of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the cancelled World Cups was to be staged this month and the other next month.
“We are prepared but there has been a major shakeup in the Olympic qualification system. There are no international competitions to achieve the qualification points. I don’t know what will be the procedure now,” Dronacharya awardee Bisheswar Nandi, also coach of Dipa, told IANS.
According to Nandi, it’s mandatory to compete in three Olympic qualifiers — i.e. World Cups — to achieve qualification points for the Olympics, starting on July 23 in Tokyo.
Dipa, 27, had aggravated her knee injury in March 2019. Following her rehabilitation, she didn’t compete in any international events.
“To earn an Olympics berth an athlete should have 90 points, but Dipa has less than half of that. We are now waiting for the world body to officially say something,” said Nandi.
As Europe faces a new surge in coronavirus cases, the world governing body of gymnastics cancelled the Cottbus World Cups, scheduled to start on February 25. The next month’s World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, from March 4, has also been cancelled.
And the Doha World Cup, an Olympic qualifier starting from March 10, has been postponed.
“There is no national camp. All the gymnasts are training on their own. Dipa is training in Agartala,” Nandi said.
Even while Nandi is banking on the official announcement of the international body to explain the positing vis-a-vis rankings on the basis of past performance — in 2019 — for qualification berths, Aruna Reddy, India’s 2018 World Cup bronze medallist in Melbourne, has shifted her focus to the World Championships in October.
“Since I didn’t compete in the international events due to injury in the 2019-20 season I don’t have enough points to aspire for an Olympics berth,” she said of her future plans.
Gymnasts and coaches wouldn’t speak about the off-the-field politics in the sport, but the reality is that petty politics of administrators seems to have prevented India from building on the platform that Dipa provided with her excellent performance at the 2016 Olympics.
Dipa made history, finishing fourth in the women’s vault final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, missing bronze by a narrow margin. She scored 15.066 points — just .150 less than Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber who scored 15.216 to win bronze.
Dipa’s outstanding feat raised the profile of gymnastics in India, but off-the-field events seem to have affected on-field progress. The sports ministry derecognised the Gymnastics Federation of India in 2019 for allegedly not following the Sports Code 2011 at the body’s elections.
The Tripura gymnast was the first Indian female to make the cut for the Olympics after 52 years — after Indian men’s team had competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.