What It Takes to Be a Gymnast

Rio Summer Olympics 2016 was a season of surprises for everyone, especially India. Among many surprises, Dipa Karmakar caught the nation’s attention when she was qualified as the first female gymnast for the Olympics, competing in the category which was forgotten for the past 52 years. The whole nation was wide awake at midnight watching her performance anxiously, waiting for the results. When she nearly missed it everyone came together supporting her, in many ways even she wouldn’t have imagined.

Although, Dipa Karmakar just missed the medal by a whisker the effort and time she has invested is commendable. She started training in a small camp when she was 6 years old and has undergone extensive training to achieve an arched foot, which is ideal for gymnastics. Her typical day 7 a.m. and reports to training at 8 a.m. which goes on until 8.30 p.m. with short lunch and nap breaks. Despite this much amount of training and dedication, it wasn’t until 2011, when she got her first set of gold medals in floor, vault, balance beam, and uneven bars at the national level competition. By the time Dipa established her international presence, she was 21 years old. She was the first Indian woman to have won a medal in Gymnastics at the commonwealth games after Ashish Kumar.

While, Dipa is a national star for us, no one can deny the impeccable performance by Simone Biles in this Olympics. At merely 19 years of age, she is the most celebrated American gymnast who has nineteen Olympic and World Championship medals in her kitty.

Like Dipa, her story also began when she was 6 year old and started pursuing it seriously from the age of 8. In 2011, Biles started her career at the American Classic where she was placed third all round and first on vault. She was homeschooled from the age of 13 so that she can focus on her training which goes for about 32 hours a week. But, it was her performance in 2012, Visa Championships which made her a part of the United States Junior National Team. In 2013, at the age of 16, Biles was included in the senior category making her first international debut. But, after a few falls and not so great performances she became the seventh American woman and first African-American to win the all-around title at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

While we are talking about the present stars, it’s hard to forget the people who created a benchmark in the first place. Mary Lou Retton who won a gold medal, two silver medals, and two bronze medals at the 1984 summer Olympics have moved half way across the country to get trained by a best coach. She used to train 8 hours a day from the age of 12 and fit her schooling schedules according to her training. She swears that the hard work paid off which also helps her in after-gymnastic career.

The same goes to Shawn Johnson, who started training as young as 3 years old who stole the thunder at the 2008 summer Olympics. But, unlike the other gymnasts, she maintained a

balanced lifestyle even until her Olympics stint. Her training was for 25 hours a week which is lesser than the recommended 40 hours. She also finished her high school with the help of private tutor and joined the university to study sports psychology and nutrition.

Aspiring to become a gymnast doesn’t happen overnight. As a parent, if you find ability in your child, then it is ideal that you start them young. The first step is to find the right coach who can guide them the correct way in a fully equipped place. Proper nutrition, setting goals, visualization techniques, positive attitude, and exposure to latest technologies are other elements which help them grow in this field. But, ultimately it takes hard work and sacrifice to achieve greatness and make a few heads turn.

Deepika Jayasurya

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