Ready to tackle tough London ride

Ready to tackle tough London ride

Having made history by winning a World Championship bronze, Ashwini-Jwala eye Oly glory

Ready to tackle tough London ride

A calm and composed Ashwini Ponnappa and an aggressive Jwala Gutta form a potent force capable of matching the best in business. Now with the London Olympics around the corner, the top-ranked Indian women’s doubles shuttlers will be hoping to rewrite history with a podium finish at the quadrennial bash.

Ashwini and her senior partner Jwala will make their debut at the Olympics with the hopes of returning home with a medal. “I am very much excited about playing in my first Olympics. It’s the dream of every sportsperson to represent the country in Olympics. I am really happy to have that honour,” said the 22-year-old Ashwini.

Jwala though will have more responsibility on her shoulders with the Hyderabadi also teaming up with V Diju in the mixed doubles, making her the first Indian shuttler to compete in two events at the Games. “I take it as a challenge,” Jwala said when queried about the strain of playing two events. “It’s a great opportunity. I am confident that I can win medals in doubles and mixed doubles,” added the 28-year-old.

Diju, Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap complete the Indian line-up for the badminton competitions in London.

With the sole aim of winning a medal in London, the Ashwini-Jwala combination is walking that extra mile, training hard everyday under the watchful eyes of coach Syed Mohammed Arif at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Indoor Stadium and Edwin Irawan at the Gopichand Academy in Gachibowli.

“Playing in the Olympics is once in a lifetime opportunity, so I want to make it count. Me and Jwala
are working hard with the hope of winning a medal. We will give our best. We believe we can win a medal at the Olympics. I am working on my drops and court movement,” explained Bangalore girl Ashwini, who shifted her base to Hyderabad after partnering Jwala.

Their Commonwealth Games triumph, two years ago in New Delhi, was the turning point for the Ashwini-Jwala pair. The gold at the Siri Fort Complex gave the doubles competition a much needed boost in the country. Last year, the right-left combination earned a historic bronze at the World Championship at the Wembley Arena, the venue for the badminton events in London. “That medal will give us the confidence when we play in Olympics. That’s why I think we have a realistic chance of coming back with a medal,” explained Jwala.

Those successes instilled the belief among the fans that the duo has the game to stand on the podium at the Olympics. “Everyone expects us to do well, so obviously there is pressure. We don’t have time to think about pressure. What I am going to do is to keep my focus on the job and play to my potential. It is better to focus on how we are going to play rather than thinking about expectations,” said Ashwini.

For a podium finish, the Ashwini-Jwala pair will have to find ways to defeat the world’s top two Chinese teams Wang Xiaoli and Yu Fang and Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei. The Indian pair have a poor 0-2 and 0-5 record against Xiaoli-Fang and Qing-Yunlei respectively.

A favourable draw should put the duo, who will leave for London on July 24, in good stead. “We are going to give our best irrespective of whom we are going to play. But we hope for a good draw,” said Ashwini, whose parents will travel to London to support their daughter as she faces the biggest test of her sporting career.

Jwala and Ashwini admits the toughest assignment will be against the Chinese. “The South Koreans are also strong opponents,” pointed out Jwala.  

In London, Ashwini is keen to meet her idols tennis ace Roger Federer and the fastest athlete on the planet, Usain Bolt. But the first priority for the glamorous duo is to make sure the Tri-colour is flying high in London.

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