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The second most populous country in the world will finally be represented in the ever-popular sport of women’s gymnastics.
All it took was a 22-year-old from one of India’s poorer states to learn to perform arguably the world’s toughest—and most dangerous—vault.
Nicknamed the “Vault of Death” because of the risk of a gymnast landing on her neck while trying to complete two aerial somersaults, the Produnova vault has only been successfully landed by five people in the world.
That esteemed group includes Dipa Karmakar, who earned a bronze medal finish in the vault at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by doing just that.
“To achieve something in life, you have to take risks,” she told the BBC.
Karmakar is a true underdog, not only because of her country of birth (India hasn’t even had a male gymnast compete in the Olympics in 52 years) but because of her humble upbringing in the small, isolated state of Tripura in the country’s northeast.
There, a young Karmakar did not even have access to a vault. Instead, she had to learn her signature event by practicing on a table with mats stacked on top of it.
Karmakar’s 2014 medal-winning performance in Scotland turned her into a celebrity in Tripura on par with a Bollywood star, she said.
Having tasted fame, Karmakar then qualified for Rio this spring and proceeded to win gold in the vault at the test event in Rio, sparking a wave of social media appreciation from not just Tripura, but from across the entire country.
“I feel that I have to give more to my people,” she told the BBC. “They have given me so much love, I feel the need to pay them back.”
Learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Olympics begin August 5.