Deepak Kabra became the first Indian to be chosen as a judge for the Olympic gymnastics competition. The men’s artistic gymnastics will be officiated by Kabra at the Tokyo Games, which begins on July 23.
“I received the invitation in March of last year, but the Olympics were postponed, and I had to wait for more than a year,” Kabra told PTI. “I got confirmation again in April but with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging there was still uncertainty whether Olympics will actually happen. But I am happy that at last, I will be able to live my Olympic dream,” he added.
The 33-year-old from Maharastra came late to the sport and quickly realised that his fundamentals were insufficient to make it big as an athlete.
“In the year 2000, I started late, at the age of twelve. I used to reside in Surat, where the facilities were inadequate. I competed in national competitions and was also a part of the 2007 National Games in Guwahati,” Kabra, a Gujarat state champion from 2005-2009, said.
“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,” he said.
Kabra’s first international assignment was the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, and he went on to become the first Indian judge to officiate at the 2014 Asian Games and Youth Olympics. He also served as a judge at the Asian and Commonwealth Games in 2018, as well as the Youth Olympics in Argentina and other international competitions including World Cups.
“I was the youngest judge at 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.
Pranati Nayak, who won a bronze medal on vault at the 2019 Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships, will represent India in Tokyo. With her fourth-place finish in the women’s vault finals at the Rio Olympics, Deepa Karmakar remains India’s most famous gymnast.