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Karmakar ends India long wait for Olympics spot – Romania fail to make team cut

India’s Dipa Karmakar performs at the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena in the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 17. (AFP)
India’s Dipa Karmakar performs at the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics test event for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena in the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 17. (AFP)

MUMBAI, April 18, (RTRS): Dipa Karmakar will become the first Indian woman to compete in an Olympic gymnastics competition after she secured her place for this summer’s Rio Games in a test event at the weekend.

Despite the sport receiving little funding in India, Commonwealth and Asian Games medallist Karmakar gathered a total score of 52.698 points in the final artistic gymnastics qualifying event in Rio to claim her place at the Games.

The international gymnastics federation confirmed her spot in an official release where she was listed among the individual qualifiers.

India have been absent from Olympic gymnastics events since 1964 when six male athletes competed. There was no qualification system in place at that time.

At the world championships in Glasgow last November, Karmakar became the first Indian to qualify for an apparatus final, where she finished fifth on the vault.

The 22-year-old raised eyebrows by attempting a vault with the highest difficulty (7.000) among all the finalists in Glasgow.

However, her attempt at the Produnova vault — a front handspring into double front somersault — failed to come off cleanly as her bottom touched the mat before she bounced back onto her feet.

Romania’s remarkable four-decade long Olympic medal streak in women’s gymnastics ended in bitter tears at the Rio test event after they failed to qualify a full team for the Brazil Games.

Romania — a country used to showcasing perfection in gymnastics ever since Nadia Comaneci landed the first 10.0 score at the Montreal Games — had scooped a team medal at every Olympics since 1976, including gold in 1984, 2000 and 2004.

However, they will not be lining up in the women’s team competition in Rio as they followed up their doomed outing in last year’s Glasgow world championships, when they placed 13th, by failing to finish in the top four in the test event on Sunday.

The top eight teams from the 2015 world championships gained automatic Olympic qualification and were joined by the top four — Brazil, Germany, Belgium, France — from the Rio test event.

The women’s teams from United States, Russia, Britain, China, Italy, Japan, Canada, Netherlands had already secured their berths last year.

It proved to be a weekend to forget for former gymnastics powerhouse Romania as the men’s team also failed to make the Olympic cut, leaving the country with the consolation prize of sending just one female and two male gymnasts to the Aug 5-21 Games.

While Romania’s chances of adding to the 24 golds their women have won since 1976 will now lie with a sole representative in Brazil, Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina and India’s Dipa Karmakar will be celebrating milestones in South America.

The 40-year-old, well-travelled Chusovitina will become the first gymnast to compete at seven successive Olympics, adding another chapter to a glittering career in which she has represented the Soviet Union, the Unified Team, Uzbekistan, Germany and finally Uzbekistan again.

Olympic horizontal bar champion Epke Zonderland was also forced to make the long journey to Rio a few months before he would have wanted to after flopping in Glasgow last year.

But the Dutchman made the most of his second chance as his high-flying antics helped the Netherlands to secure qualification for the Olympic men’s team competition for the first time.

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