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India 1st World Cup medal
For someone who always saw herself as a reluctant gymnast, Aruna Reddy made history on Saturday when she became India’s first World Cup medal winner with a bronze in Melbourne.
The vault, made famous throughout India by Dipa Karmakar, once again proved the launch pad for a woman gymnast from the country. This time, it was for this lesser-known training partner of the Tripura girl known for her fondness for the death-defying Produnova routine.
“My moment of glory has finally arrived,” an ecstatic Aruna told TOI from Melbourne, her voice choked with emotion.
Gymnastics never held the same appeal as karate. Aruna wanted a ‘Karate Kid’ story for herself, she even has a black belt to show for it. Narayan Reddy, her sports-mad accountant father had other plans in mind. He got her enrolled in an academy in Hyderabad as an eight-year old, but is not around to bask in his daughter’s success today, having passed away in 2010. “Every medal I will win is dedicated to my father,” she said.
But there was an adopted gymnastics family rooting away. “So proud of you Aruna!! Congratulations on your outstanding achievement!” Dipa, the senior pro, tweeted. The Olympian is not competing at the Worlds as she is recuperating from a knee surgery.
Training alongside Dipa under coach Bisweswar Nandi at national camps since 2011, playing second fiddle to Dipa had become a routine of sorts for Aruna.
‘MOMENT OF GLORY’: Aruna Reddy
‘India knew gymnastics as Dipa. Now there’s Aruna too’
India’s first gymnastics World Cup bronze medal marks a serious emerging from the shadows for Aruna Reddy. A cloudy evening in Melbourne provided a sliver of an opening. All of 22, Aruna promptly took the plunge. It was history-making, even if meant missing out on silver by a mere 0.05 points.
She managed an average score of 13.649 points to finish behind gold winner Tjasa Kysslef (13.800) of Slovenia and Australia’s Emily Whitehead (13.699), who clinched silver. The other Indian in the fray, Pranti Nayak, finished sixth in the final with 13.416.
“Indian gymnastics is synonyms to Dipa, but now people will know that there’s Aruna Reddy as well,” the Hyderabad girl said later of Dipa Karmakar, the betterknown training partner.
“We have been training together since 2011. We are not rivals and can’t be. We are each other’s support system during training and competition time. We treat each other as sisters and are close friends. Her hard work actually inspires me. Even before leaving for this competition, Dipa had motivated me by telling me to give my best shot and not to feel the pressure,” she added.
“It’s because of the faith showed by Dipa, Nandi sir and my personal coach Brij Kishore sir in my abilities that I have reached this far. I am really happy to carve my own space. Now people will see me as a medal prospect in international competitions as well,” she pointed out For someone who won her first national medal 13 years ago, Melbourne becomes a long-awaited milestone. “This is my first international medal. I don’t have words to describe my feelings,” a breathless Aruna, said over the phone, “It’s been 13 years since I’ve seriously pursed a career in gymnastics and finally I have a World Cup medal.
A former karetaka, Aruna was pushed into gymnastics by her karate coach and her father who felt she was better suited for it. “Initially, I wasn’t interested in gymnastics, but when I started winning medals (she won her first national medal in 2005), I developed a liking for the sport,” she laughs over the phone, “Since then, I haven’t looked back. Every medal I will win is dedicated to my father.”
Aruna stays with her housewife mother and is supported by her sister Pavani, a qualified company secretary, and brother-in-law, a civil contractor, who helped in funding her dreams.
“I wanted to be a karate kid and had even completed a black belt course. However, my father thought that my body structure is more suited to become a gymnast, so he introduced me to the game,’ remembered the history maker.
Aruna had always been a promising gymnast – finishing 14th in the qualification round at the 2014 Glasgow CWG, ninth place at the Incheon Asian Games and sixth at the 2017 Asian Championships – but the medal glory somewhat eluded her. Now after having bagged bronze at the Worlds, she is setting her sights on the forthcoming Gold Coast CWG. “I would like to win a medal for Dipa there,” signs off a gracious champion.