Sachin Tendulkar had clicked a selfie with some Rio 2016 stars and India badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.
Sachin Tendulkar had clicked a selfie with some Rio 2016 stars and India badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.IANS

Sachin Tendulkar is a sporting icon in India, and everyone wants to meet the cricketer in person. Artistic gymnast Dipa Karmakar, who won hearts of the nation with a superb performance at the Rio Olympics, recently got a chance to meet the legend at an event in Hyderabad. In a brief chat, Tendulkar asked her to dedicate more time to training to shine in the future.

Dipa did not miss a chance to take a snap with Tendulkar, which is everyone's dream. Dipa's short frame of 1.5m posed problems for her to get into the picture frame, but she somehow managed. She described her meet with Tendulkar as 'good experience'.

"It was a good experience. I sneaked into the picture as I was the shortest in the frame (smiles). Sachin sir told me this is just the beginning and that I should keep focus on my training," Times of India quoted Dipa as saying in an interview.

Dipa might have missed a medal in Rio by a whisker, but she has already become one of the most popular athletes in the country. The Narendra Modi government, after her brilliant performance, had decided to honour her with the country's highest sporting award – the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.

Besides Dipa, silver medallist PV Sindhu (badminton), bronze medal winner Sakshi Malik (wrestling) and shooter Jitu Rai were felicitated with the award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi on Monday. Dipa was pleased to receive the award among other big names from other sports in the country.

"Before leaving for Rio Olympics, I was a normal Dipa, but I have got so much love and affection from all corners since my return even though I couldn't win a medal. The experience at Rashtrapati Bhavan was a good one... felt proud to sit in the company of other achievers," Dipa said.

After receiving such a positive response for her fourth place finish in Rio, Dipa will hope to bring laurels to the country in every competition she participates. Fans will also hope for some major achievements from the gymnast in the near future and most importantly a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

With some good infrastructure for gymnastics in the country, Dipa sees a bright future for India in the sport. "In 2008-09, there weren't many facilities. But if you go to the Indira Gandhi Stadium now, it has the latest equipment, similar to one used at Rio Olympics. All these days, the only thing that was missing was direction. Now, I see young gymnasts talking about winning medals. I feel the country has a good future in gymnastics," said Dipa.