Committee members of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS) are scheduled to hold a meeting next week where the list of beneficiaries of the government-funding kitty is likely to be expanded. Among the names expected to be up for discussion are the doubles pairing of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa.
One of the most glaring omissions from the initial list of 75 athletes, India’s top women’s pairing — former World Championship bronze winners and Commonwealth Games silver medallists — will be amongst the fresh names considered at the next meeting.
The World No. 18 combine train separately — Ashwini in Bangalore and Jwala in Hyderabad, but have repeatedly voiced their concerns about lack of coaching support so crucial to them making the next grade.
“Doubles desperately needs a couple of international sparring partners and a coach dedicated to doubles. It’s unfair that we don’t get this basic support, but we are always expected to win,” Ashwini said, adding the duo has gone over all available options including training abroad, but that funding is a major hurdle.
“Internationally, I realise it’s a different level each time we go and compete. The first few matches is about adjusting to the sheer pace of the rallies. We need help in coaching and practice so that we can perform to our potential and do much better on the circuit,” she added.
Doubles is extremely competitive in badminton, given that alongside the Asians (“never less than four Chinese pairs at least”) the bulk of the Europeans are focused on doubles, with Denmark, England and recently Russians competing on an even level with the Asians.
“They are proud of their doubles players there. And they support them fully. Last time we had a specialist coach, Jwala and me gave results. We will again with backing,” Ashwini reiterated. “But it’s almost as if despite winning medals internationally, they have no faith in us.”
Ashwini has added a fresher net dimension to her game after benefitting from playing mixed doubles where she guards the net as Pranav Chopra attacks from the back court.
“It’ll be great if we get government support. Our game will improve and we will do well in Rio,” she added.