'Not ready to accept defeat': Pranati Nayak takes a gamble at Asian Games
Pranati Nayak ended 8th in the Artistic Gymnastic finals after attempting a high-scoring Vault on her first try which did not come off.
Hangzhou: Pranati Nayak, India's sole gymnast at the Asian Games, ended 8th and last in the Vault final here on Thursday, but she said that she could have achieved a better rank if she had tried to play it safer. She also said she is not ready to accept the 8th-place finish as defeat, and will now shift her focus to seal qualification for next year's Paris Olympics.
"I knew China and Korea were always going to take the podium spots here, the level of competition was very high. The Tsukahara 360 vaults that I had executed in the qualifiers would not have given me any chance of medals. So I tried a Tsukahara 720. If I could have landed it, I could have reached up to 4th or 5th spot," Pranati told The Bridge moments after her final.
It was a gamble with which Pranati, who was competing at her third Asian Games edition, started off the final. Unfortunately, it did not pay off as she landed awkwardly.
"Since I couldn't land well, a lot of points were cut right at the start. I had found the vault apparatus here in Hangzhou very tight in the first few days, slowly I got used to it, finally managing the confidence to try a 720 in the final," Pranati said.
Pranati's first vault had a high difficulty score of 5.2, but because she could not land well, she suffered a penalty of -0.3. Her second vault had a difficulty score of 4.2.
The top four gymnasts in the final - from North Korea, China, and the evergreen Oksana Chusovitana from Uzbekistan - all did vaults with difficulty score higher than 5. Difficulty scores range from 2 to 6.4 in Vault.
"This is my first competition where I have competed with these big names on n equal footing. I got to learn that I need to work a lot more on my execution and landing. It is beyond me to try anything with a higher difficulty score, I have to stick to what I have known my entire life, but competing with such elite athletes makes me want to increase my difficulty score," Pranati said.
Thinking back on how she has progressed from appearing at the 2014 Asian Games as a fresh-faced 19-year-old with no ambitions, Pranati reflected, "Back in 2014, I hadn't even thought qualifying for the Vault final would be a possibility. In the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, I tried the Tsukahara 720 for the very first time. The competition seems to have grown even tougher since then. I am not ready to accept defeat, I will continue to put my best foot forward."
Skipped all-around final because of new shin injury
Pranati also explained why she skipped the all-around final earlier on Wednesday despite qualifying for it.
"I have had a terrible shin injury for the last one month. I have had several injuries in the past, but this new shin pain is giving me a lot of trouble. Because the newly set-up apparatus here is tough, floor exercises are killing me here, as I realised during the qualifiers," she said, adding that she thought taking a hard gamble in the Vault finals would be the better choice.
A tattoo of the Olympic rings on her forearm announces Pranati's aims for the near future.
"I won't stop because I came last here. I will try to perfect my landing with the 720. I did not get much time to train for it this time as I have been continuously competing for the last few months. You need around 7-8 months of training to perfect such a move," Pranati said.
Pranati will return home having collected valuable experience of having competed at the top level, and several pins which she has collected from athletes of different contingents during her stay in China.
India's leading gymnast will return to action at the Paris Olympic qualifiers very soon. The 2024 World Cup series from January to March 2024 will give Pranati enough time to perfect her landing and make it to the Olympics.