"Thank You, I Like Risk," Says Dipa Karmakar Of Manoeuvre Everyone Thinks Is Too Dangerous To Try
NEW DELHI: About two years ago, Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar became the third woman in gymnastics history to land the ‘Produnova vault’ -- a move considered the toughest manoeuvre in women’s gymnastics. Named after Russian gymnast Yelena Produnova, who was the first person to complete the vault in 1999, it is essentially a handspring double front. Only six gymnasts the world over have successfully completed the tricky manoeuvre.
Dipa Karmakar is one of those six women. She is also the first female Indian gymnast to qualify for the Olympics, and will be one of two gymnasts who will be performing the complicated vault at the Olympic games currently underway in Rio De Janeiro. The other athlete is Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, who formerly competed for the USSR.
For most athletes, the Produnova is madness. When US gymnast Laurie Hernandez was asked about the Produnova recently, her personal coach, Maggie Haney, interjected. “We’ll never do it.” “No, thanks,” agreed Hernandez.
Star US gymnast Simone Biles echoed the above, saying someone could get killed attempting the manoeuvre. “I’m not trying to die,” she told the New Yorker magazine earlier this year when referring to the Produnova.
Mihai Brestyan, who is US gymnast Aly Raisman’s personal coach, told the Wall Street Journal that the Produnova is “too risky.” “The people from outside don’t know what can happen. We know what can happen.”
The move, which is what happens when you sprint at the vault and catapult high enough to flip twice in the air, is considered dangerous because of the difficulty of landing on your feet. American sports scientist William Sands who has evaluated the vault and its impact on the men who do their version of the Produnova, called the Roche, tells the Wall Street Journal, “Gosh, you’re coming down like a ton of bricks.”
The risk associated with the manoeuvre has its upside, for in gymnastics, as in life, there are big rewards for those willing to take big risks. Because of its difficulty, the Produnova is worth significantly more than other vaults. The official difficulty rating of the Produnova is a 7, so even if the gymnast attempting it barely pulls off the landing, they can still score relatively high.
This, however, may change soon, as the international governing body of gymnastics is looking to rewrite the scoring system, in part to discourage people who cannot pull of the Produnova from attempting it.
Despite the difficulty and risks associated with the manoeuvre, India’s Karmakar is confident. She says she has successfully performed the Produnova over a thousand times in the last three months alone.
“Now it’s the easiest vault for me,” she said as quoted in WSJ. “I hope this vault becomes more famous than me in India.”
On Sunday, Karmakar attempted the manoeuvre, and although she landed seated, she quickly sprung up, beaming. It was good enough to snatch her a spot in the finals. Immediately, she was surrounded by reporters. “The vault is very dangerous,” she said. “I say, ‘Thank you, I like risk.’”