Gymnastics: Indian PM Narendra Modi lauds Dipa Karmakar after first major gold medal feat

A file photo taken on Aug 7, 2016, shows Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar competing in the qualifying for the women's beam event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
A file photo taken on Aug 7, 2016, shows Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar competing in the qualifying for the women's beam event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes on Monday (July 9) for female gymnast Dipa Karmakar, who bagged her country's first-ever gold medal in a global gymnastic event in Turkey.

Karmakar, who participated in her first international competition since narrowly missing an Olympic medal in 2016, won the women's vault at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup in Mersin on Sunday.

The 24-year-old had recovered from a career-threatening knee injury suffered last year and her average score of 14.150 edged out Indonesia's Rifda Irfanaluthfi (13.400).

"More than the gold, what was important for me was to perform at the optimum level. I am happy I could do that considering the fact at the beginning of the year, I was hobbling back to fitness," Karmakar was quoted as saying by Indian daily Hindustan Times.

"Getting back into top gear makes me believe that my knee has healed completely and I should now be able to go all out at the Asian Games," she added.

The Asian Games take place in Indonesia from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

Mr Modi took to Twitter to congratulate Karmakar, who missed the Commonwealth Games in Australia earlier this year due to her injury.

"India is proud of @DipaKarmakar!... This win is a prime example of her tenacity and never-say-die attitude," said Mr Modi.

India's Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore, a former professional shooter who won silver in the 2004 Olympics, also praised the champion gymnast.

"#DipaKarmakar is the stuff champions are made of! After battling an injury for the past two years, she makes a heroic comeback by clinching her first in the Gymnastics World Challenge Cup in Turkey! Many congratulations to her for making proud!," Mr Rathore wrote on Twitter.

Karmakar though is still some distance away from the dangerous "Produnova Vault" that got her bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

Named after Russian gymnast Yelena, the "Vault of Death" as it is nicknamed, was first introduced in 1999, but is so dangerous some want it banned.

It involves a handspring double-front somersault, and has one of the highest degrees of difficulty rating - a seven.

Only a handful of gymnasts have attempted it in competition.