By swooping on four gold medals in artistic gymnastics, more than any team in the competition so far, she can even be anointed as a state now.
Priyanka is not yet a contended soul though: she can’t forget the medal that slipped out of her fingers in last year’s edition, with the slightest of margins.
And like a true champion, the 16-year-old sees the All-Around as her ‘weak link’ and literally obsesses over it, with a desire to master it, to achieve perfection in it.
Not too surprisingly, this fixation finds its root in the advise she received from her idol and the ‘real star of Tripura’: Dipa Karmakar.
“Dipa di told me to stay focused, not to get overawed by what the competition is doing, but to concentrate on my own performances,” Priyanka explained. “Di told me that the most important muscle in gymnastics is the brain. If you don’t have the strength of will, you cannot win,” she added.
It is this simple trick that prompted her to work on her so-called weak routine, rather than sharpening what she is good at.
Not too surprisingly, the All-Around gold is firmly in her pocket now. Of course, she added the Balancing Beam, the Floor Exercises and the Vaulting Table gold too to emerge as the standout performer in the Under-17 Girls competition.
“I am thrilled to have done this,” she said, especially after beating back Maharashtra’s redoubtable twins, Riddhi and Siddhi Hattekar. “Obviously, every athlete comes to a competition with the objective of winning. But making it to happen is another story.”
Back in Agratala, her mother Bhabani Dasgupta’s delight was barely containable. “We are thrilled with her obviously. The first thing we do when she comes back is put those medals up on display,” she said over a crackling phone line, adding that the family would thank the neighbour whose advised a decade ago put her on this journey.
“As a child, Priyanka used to be really naughty and energetic, always bouncing around the house,” she said. “When she was a little over four years old, I asked my neighbor for help and she recommended that I send her to the Vivekananda Byamagar stadium for coaching.”
Today, as success and greater glory beckon Priyanka, she is still flanked by the same coach that channelized her energy: Soma Nandi. “My mother pushed me to go to gymnastics, and she was the one who took me to the stadium every day. But at the stadium, it was Soma ma’am, who taught me everything, coaxed me, cajoled me, reprimanded me and took care of me. I call her my second mother,” she said.
This was not new for Soma Nandi. She had after all coached Dipa Karmakar before her husband Bisweshwar Nandi took charge of the Produnova specialist.
“When Priyanka first came, I didn’t think she was so talented. But of course, talent is not everything. She put her head down, was willing to work hard, and was always looking to learn new things. That is what makes her who she is,” Soma said.