Our case of Rio Olympic Fever is starting to wane, but that doesn’t mean the flame in our heart will die out. Over the next couple of years, we’re going to be looking at different aspects of the Olympics and of sports in general.
One element of sport that really interests us is geography. Fiji’s a powerhouse in rugby. The US still dominates basketball. Brazil is known for football excellence, etc. While we do some research into how and why different sports grow popular in different countries or areas of the world, let’s take a look at Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar. Karmakar’s the first female gymnast to represent India at the Olympics, and she took fourth in the vault.
India’s not known for its gymnastics prowess, so Dipa had a lot of issues to overcome, reports Firstpost, such as not having access to a vault to learn how to vault. Her coach improvised one for her out of second-hand springs, old scooter shock absorbers and mats. She would get cast-off equipment (up until earlier this year, she reportedly practiced on a six-year-old vault, which may not seem like a big deal, but vault technology has apparently improved since then) and little funding or attention, particularly because she’s a woman.
Earlier this year, she did get funding and new equipment that allowed her to train properly.
By all accounts, she did well in Rio. Fourth is nothing to slouch over, even if India was hoping for a medal. Even with fourth place, she can continue breaking down barriers to help future generations of Indian girls participate in the sport.
Here in the US, Karmakar’s story is dumbfounding. Gymnastics is hugely popular here, and women’s gymnastics even more so than men’s. Our top gymnasts get access to high-quality training and equipment (perhaps you saw some of the million minutes devoted to the Karolyis on NBC). But I’m sure that in a sport like, say, handball, our athletes also suffer the same as Karmakar. Can every country have decent participation and funding for every sport? Should they?