Deepak Kabra becomes first Indian gymnastics judge at Olympics

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Deepak Kabra has become the first Indian to be selected for judging the gymnastics competition of the Olympic Games, a life goal achieved for the man who knew he wouldn’t have made it there as an active gymnast because of his not-so-strong fundamentals.

Kabra will be seen officiating the men’s artistic gymnasts at the Tokyo Games, which gets underway on July 23.

“I had got the invitation in March last year but then the Olympics got postponed and what followed was a nervous wait for more than a year,” Kabra told PTI.

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“I got confirmation again in April but with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging there was still uncertainty whether the Olympics will actually happen. But I am happy that at last, I will be able to live my Olympic dream.”

The 33-year-old from Maharashtra took to the sport quite late and soon realised his fundamentals were not strong enough to make it big as an athlete.

“I started very late at the age of 12 in 2000. I used to live in Surat and the facilities were not great at that time. I competed in national-level events, also participated in the 2007 National Games in Guwahati,” says Kabra, who was a Gujarat state champion from 2005 to 2009.

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“I knew I didn’t have a future as an athlete, my fundamentals were not strong but I had the passion so I started judging. My coach Kaushik Bediwala was also a judge, so I took inspiration from him and soon took a course and topped it in 2009.”

The 2010 Commonwealth Games in India was his first international assignment and Kabra went on to become the first Indian judge to officiate in the 2014 Asian Games and Youth Olympics.

He also officiated as a judge in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2018, Youth Olympics in Argentina, besides other international events such as World Cups.

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“I was the youngest judge at the 2010 CWG. I have officiated in around 20 major events so far. Olympics was the only one missing, now it completes my portfolio,” said Kabra, who is a category 2 judge.

“It takes minimum of 12 years to reach Olympics and I was lucky to get it exactly after 12 years,” said Kabra, who was appointed as a member of the Asian Gymnastics Union’s technical committee in 2018.

Indian gymnastics will be represented in Tokyo by Pranati Nayak, who had claimed a bronze medal on vault at the 2019 Asian Artistic Gymnastic.

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Deepa Karmakar remains India’s biggest name in gymnastics with her fourth-place finish in women’s vault finals in the Rio Games.

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