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Rio 2016: India's first female Olympic gymnast inspires a nation

Dipa Karmakar of India falls while competing in the Women's Vault Final on Day 9 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 23-year-old Dipa Karmakar is the first Indian woman gymnast to qualify for the Olympics

Dipa Karmakar, India's first female gymnast at the Olympics, may have just lost out on a medal but she won the hearts of a nation with her vaulting performance.

She finished fourth in the women's vault gymnastics event on Sunday with a score of 15.966, just 0.15 points behind the bronze winner.

India has yet to win an Olympics medal at the Rio 2016 games.

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Image caption The gymnast reportedly began training at the age of six

But her fourth place did little to stop the outpouring of support and praise for the athlete on social media.

"It's not about winning medals," said Shekhar Kapur, an Indian film director on Twitter. "It's about breaking through all stereotypes and proving you are there with the best. You inspire us all."

Image copyright Twitter/@VijayGoelBJP
Image caption Indian politician and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel took to Twitter to congratulate the athlete

"Thank you #DipaKarmakar for getting us united at midnight cheering for Gymnastics, in a country with no infrastructure for this sport," said cricketer Virender Sehwag. "Super proud".

Another user on Twitter added that Ms Karmakar had united the country.

"From left-liberal to internet-Hindu we all came together for Karmakar. Never forget."

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Image caption Ms Karmakar has reportedly won a total of 77 medals in various domestic and international competitions

Ms Karmakar said she was not disappointed with her performance.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ms Karmakar ranked fourth in the women's vault finals in Rio

"I never expected a medal from this Olympics but to have come fourth is very creditable," Ms Karmakar told news outlet First Post. "For me this is my first Olympics, but I don't need to be disappointed. After four years, my target would be gold."

Ms Karmakar was only one of two gymnasts to perform the Produnova vault, widely known as one of the most dangerous feats in gymnastics.

It is often referred to as the "vault of death".

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Image caption Ms Karmakar executed one of the most dangerous feats in gymnastics, the Produnova vault
Image copyright AP
Image caption The move has only been performed successfully by five people in the world, including Karmakar
Image copyright AP
Image caption It consists of a front handspring off the vault, followed by two and a half somersaults
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption She pulled off the move but reportedly lost points when she sat down

The move consists of a front handspring off the vault, followed by two and a half somersaults.

When asked if she would attempt the move, star US Olympian Simone Biles reportedly told The New Yorker, "I'm not trying to die".

Ms Karmakar completed the move and landed on her feet, but then reportedly sat down- causing her to lose points. However, she said that she was pleased with her result.

"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."

Ms Biles took the top prize in the vault, with Maria Paseka of Russia coming in second and Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland taking the bronze.

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Image caption Gymnastics does not receive much funding from the government of India

Gymnastics does not receive much funding from the government of India, with Ms Karmakar earlier telling the BBC that she competed in her first gymnastics competition without shoes and in an ill-fitting costume.

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India won six medals in the 2012 Olympics, with four bronze and two silvers. Much of the country had been banking on Ms Karmakar to bring its first win. She has promised to bring a medal home in 2020.

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