Dipa Karmakar became the first woman gymnast from India to have qualified for the Olympics in 52 years, and continued her spectacular streak on Sunday with her 15.300 score on the highly difficult and hazardous Produnova vault. With her beautiful execution of this vault, she has become one of the five women in history to have successfully performed it in competition.
So what is this Produnova and why is it such a big deal?
The Produnova is technically a handspring double-front somersault. This tricky vault has a difficulty score of 7.0. This is how it looks like in slow motion:
So isn’t that what gymnastics is all about? Bouncing over surfaces, doing somersaults?
It is. But there is a reason this particular move is called the Vault of Death.
The Produnova vault is named after Yelena Produnova, a Russian gymnast who successfully executed it in 1999. Look at her finish flawlessly:
There is a high probability of a gymnast landing on her neck if a mere second of delay occurs in completing the somersault. A gymnast gets credit for the vault as long as she is able to land on her feet. Landing neck-first or back-first after two double flips, is basically putting twice your weight on your spine, letting it snap into two. Like Fadwa Mahmoud from Egypt risked doing here:
Or Yamilet Pena from the Dominican Republic attempted here:
Doesn’t look very comfortable now, does it?
Watch the Uzbekistan gymnast, 44-year old Oksana Chusovitina attempt it here:
While the sporting community has been very vocal in calling for the ban of this vault altogether, it continues to be attempted by gymnasts like Karmakar because if executed well, it increases their chance of winning medals and thereby bagging more funding.
Meanwhile, our hopes are pinned on this 22-year old from Tripura who has been performing spectacularly in various international events, becoming the most successful gymnast in India.
Watch her perform this very hazardous vault with which she has landed beautifully into the finals which will take place on August 14.
Way to go, Dipa!
Title image: mashable