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Brazilian gymnast Flavia Saraiva was cheered by Simone Biles. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência BrasilBrazilian gymnast Flavia Saraiva was cheered by Simone Biles. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

To Biles or not to Biles?

(Rio de Janeiro, brpress) - There is no need to win medals to win a nation’s hearts as India’s Dipa Karmakar and Brazil’s Flavia Saraiva have proven so.

(Rio de Janeiro, brpress) – While Simone Biles has made history in Rio 2016 – her first Olympic Games – winning five medals – four gold and one bronze –,  Dipa Karmakar, India’s first female gymnast at the Olympics, have won the hearts of a nation – even without a medal. Her vaulting performance on the artistic gymnastics semi-final was widely celebrated on social media since India has yet to bring a medal home from Rio. Same could be said of Brazilian Flavia Saraiva, the youngest and most gracious member of the Brazilian gym team.

While courageous 23 years old Dipa Karmakar has caught Nadia Comaneci’s attention, Flavia Saraiva has taken a statement from Simone Biles herself. Comaneci’s commented on Dipa’s performance in Rio Olympics: “She is very competitive and seems to be quite daring. I think that she does have a real chance to get a medal. Ii is amazing how the Indian reporters are keen on everything she is doing in Rio. She is like a Bollywood star!”, the legend said exclusively to brpress. On Flavia, Biles told reporters: “I was sure that the bronze medal was going for her and I still think she deserve it. Her performance was better then mine – I was not that good”. 

Glasgow’s spotlight

Flavia Saraiva – three medals at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing – cried after being eliminated. However, after recovering she added: “I am crying because I am happy of being among the world’s best gymnastics”. The 16 years old and 1.33m height Brazilian was in the fifth place – the same score of Brazilian veteran Daiane dos Santos reached in Athens 2004. Legend Nadia Comaneci also commented on Flavia’s performance. In Brazil commenting the Games for SporTV, the gymnastic legend has known Flavia since 2014 and predicted that she would be a star at the Rio Olympics. “I saw Flavia Saraiva, when she was at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014,  and she was second on the beam – a great achievement”, reinforced Comaneci. 

Dipa Karmakar also made her name by winning a bronze medal at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, at which she landed the Produnova in her vault final. Her qualification for Rio 2016 was a cause for national celebration in April, with cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar weighing in on social media to express his delight: “Finally our own Nadia Comaneci. Dipa Karmakar you are the pride of our nation. Your achievements inspire us”. 


Dipa’s fourth place in Rio’s final – missing out on what would have been India’s first Olympic medal in gymnastics by 0.15 points – did little to stop the outpouring of support and praise for the athlete.”It’s not about winning medals”, tweeted Shekhar Kapur, an Indian film director. “It’s about breaking through all stereotypes and proving you are there with the best.” It was not enough. Indian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel took to Twitter to congratulate the athlete: “We are all very proud of Dipa Karmakar. Billion Indians were glued to their TV sets because of you”. Her effort in the final included the dangerous Produnova vault which has earned her widespread acclaim.

“Thank you for getting us united at midnight cheering for Gymnastics, in a country with no infrastructure for this sport,” said cricketer Virender Sehwag. “Super proud”, he added, suggesting that Dipa and athlete Lalita Babar (reaching the final scoring the 10th place) should be honoured by India’s government having a train and plane named after them.  “Everyone likes saluting the rising sun. Though our champions in Rio have not won a medal thus far for their incredible efforts and skills, the way some of them have fought against all odds has been amazing. Its important that we honour their efforts,” he added. The Brazilian press has also felt for Dipa and main outlets, such as and Época magazine dedicated long articles on India’s darling, highlighting how tough was Dipa’s trajectory to fame, having trained among rats and without appropriate gear.  

While Simone Biles received compliments even from singer Lady Gaga (“You brought proud teardrops to many people’s eyes including mine. A focused & strong woman, you are a champion”) and took the top prize in the vault, followed by Maria Paseka of Russia and Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland taking the bronze, Dipa Karmakar stated, proudly: “This is my highest score in Produnova. I am very happy with my vault. I gave my whole effort to bring an Olympic medal for my countrymen. But it was tough luck.” Determined, she promised to bring a medal home in 2020. “I never expected a medal from this Olympics but to have come fourth is very creditable”, Ms Karmakar told news outlet First Post. “After four years, my target would be gold”, she promised. 


Read more on Rio 2016 gymnastics here.