KOLKATA: Minara Begum, who has been coaching national-level gymnasts for 30 years, was surprised to receive a call from a parent soon after Dipa Karmakar finished fourth in the Olympics. This gentleman He wanted his 18-year-old daughter to train as a gymnast.
After Dipa catapulted her way to the headlines with her Produnova vaults, many coaches like Minara have been flooded with calls from enthusiastic parents, who want their children to be a part of this sport.
“Earlier people compared gymnasts with trapeze artiste. When I practised, they’d smirk and say, ‘Oh! that sport where people trip and fall’. Now, they are staying up at night to watch gymnastics,” said Minara, who trains at the Sports Authority of India (SAI).”People would earlier equate gymnasts with trapeze artiste. When I was a practising gymnast, they’d smirk and say ‘Oh! shei khelata jekhane loke ulte palte pore jae (Oh! that sport where people trip and fall)’ Today, they are staying up at night to watch gymnastics. Apart from kids, even grown-ups are interested in the sport,” said Minara, who trains at the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Coach Joyprokash Chakraborty, who teaches gymnastics to around 60 kids in Uttarpara Sarathi Club, too received calls from various parents showing interest in the sport. parents. At the Uttarpara Sharathi Club, he trains 60 kids. “The lowest age for enrolment is 3.5 years. After Dipa’s performance, I’ve got at least a dozen calls from parents wanting to enrol their kids. Dipa has put the spotlight on gymnastics,” added Chakraborty.
A mother of a four-year-old girl called up Chakraborty’s club soon after Dipa’s powerhouse performance. “Despite the huge distance from her residence, which is on Kona Express highway, she still wanted to enrol her child,” said Rukmini Mukherjee, who handleslooks into the admission process of the club.
The secretary of 18-year-old Garia Srirampur Kalyan Samiti, Goutam Ghosh, claimed that he has to have noticed a 10% surge in interest. “We train 110 kids. Earlier people believed that only kids do gymnastics. But after Olympics, even grown-ups are keen to join,” Ghosh said.
But how long will this interest last? However, will this interest sustain for long? Whenever any a sport beyond cricket has got received attention, post a film release or an achievement of a player, there has been a surge in interest. Hockey, athletics, boxing and wrestling got a boost after the release of “Chak De! India”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “Mary Kom” and “Sultan”. But it was the interest was rathershort-lived. In case of gymnastics, parents are aware of the lack of proper infrastructure for the game. of an acute need for infrastructural support towards the game.
Beginners can practice with a mat, costumes (read T-shirt and shorts) and small beams at local clubs. But professional gymnasts need a 12 metre by 12 metre floor that is made of string. On top of it, there is they need a ply board cover that is wrapped in a rubber sheet.
“Most clubs in Bengal can’t afford this. Here our players run barefoot on a simple mat. But no professional player should practice under such circumstances. They need uneven bars, vault tables, runway mats, parallel bars, horizontal bars and a rubber pit. Clubs and schools need help to provide these apparatus to talented players. Otherwise, even talented players will reach stagnancy,” Chakraborty said.
Minara acknowledges the problems but believes they are surmountable. “People are fitness-conscious and that’s the most important partof our game. The aesthetics component of the sport is attracting many. After Dipa’s performance, people now know have started believing that Indian gymnasts can make it to the Olympics too.” Minara said. That dream, she predicts, is the biggest incentive for sustaining the interest in this game.