By Aritra Chowdhury
Mumbai, May 10 (IANS) Top Indian shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa is confident that she and her women’s doubles partner Jwala Gutta have a strong chance to clinch a medal at the forthcoming Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Jwala and Ashwini, currently ranked World No.14 in women’s doubles, have won laurels such as gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a historic bronze at the 2011 World Championships and a silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
A total of seven Indian shuttlers have made the cut for the Rio Games, eclipsing the previous high of five taking part in the 2012 London Olympics. The Rio Olympics will be held from August 5-21.
“I think we (Ashwini-Jwala) have a very good chance to do well and win a medal at Rio. We both are working hard and training to get ready for the Olympics. We are making sure we prepare ourselves well for the big challenge ahead for us. So we need to get ourselves right on track for the games and I hope all things fall in place and we can win a medal there and make the country proud,” Ashwini told IANS in an interview.
The duo will make their second appearance at the Olympics, having taken part in London in 2012, and Ashwini believes that having previous experience of competing at the Games will help them perform even better.
“I think having an Olympic experience is always a fair advantage when you are going for the second time that we already know how it is going to be and everything else,” she said.
Ashwini, who has been supporting and participating in the Indian edition of Wings for Life World Run, a global run that takes place simultaneously across 34 locations in six continents, expressed satisfaction over the good number of shuttlers in the Indian contingent.
“It will definitely increase the chances for clinching as many medals as possible in Rio. So now we have even better chance this time around compared to London to do well with seven shuttlers participating,” the Bangalore-born said.
Leading the women’s singles category for India will be London Olympics bronze medallist and World No.8 Saina Nehwal alongside No.10 P.V. Sindhu.
Saina will be representing India in her third Games while Sindhu will make her maiden appearance and Ashwini believes that with Olympic experience and medal already in her kitty, Saina will definitely be the best bet to clinch a medal among the Indians.
Besides the women’s singles and doubles, Kidambi Srikanth has qualified in the men’s singles category alongside Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy, who made the cut in the men’s doubles category.
“I think there is a great chance this time around, as we have two women’s singles players aiming for medals. I hope both Saina and Sindhu will be able to do well and excel. Saina has already won a medal at Olympics, so she has that much more experience and confidence going into Rio this time,” she said.
“I think not only Saina, but Sindhu and others also have a good chance of winning.They have been doing really well lately.”
Commenting on India’s new doubles coach Tan Kim, Ashwini praised the Malaysian as a good inclusion.
“He (Kim) has been a doubles specialist over a long period of time. He is helping the doubles pair with his experience. It is always good, helpful and nice to have someone experienced in your team. Having him is making the training and preparations for the Olympics much easier.”
When asked which women’s pair could be a tough opponent in the upcoming Games, Ashwini without any hesitation named the Chinese and Japanese.
“I think the Chinese and Japanese would be tough oppositions. Everyone will give their best, but the Chinese and Japanese are the toughest,” she said.
Ashwini also said that top shuttler Parupalli Kashyap not being able to recover in time for Rio qualification due to knee injury was an unfortunate one.
“I don’t think it is just Kashyap, but we also had other players like HS Prannoy, Ajay Jayaram who could have made it to Rio. Both of them worked hard. But it is unfortunate that Kasyap could not make it to Rio but Prannoy and Ajay, either of these two, had the capability to make it,” Ashwini concluded.