“I am fearless, both off and and on the court,” thundered Jwala Gutta on her return after winning her maiden grand prix women’s doubles in the Canada Open with Ashwini Ponnappa at Calgary. She continued, “When on court, I play. People don’t like to hear what I have to say. I don’t think I need to change anything now. My coach and father (Kranti) never told me to change.”
Lashing at the authorities concerned, particularly Badminton Association of India (BAI), for an indifferent attitude towards doubles, the 2010 Commonwealth gold medalist said they have been playing without any government support for so many years. “Without any support of coach, shuttles, physio, we have been performing at an international level. On the other hand, the singles players get all the support. They have masseurs, sparring partners, shuttles and don’t spend a single penny when they go out. On the contrary, we have to spend money even for our laundry. I’m not complaining but at the same time they should think about us. Why target only Ashwini and me?’’ she questions.
Venting out her frustration, she says, “After all I am a human being. Initially I used to get affected but not any more. Badminton has become popular in the country not because of singles players but also because of doubles performance. We performed at the highest level.’’
Feeling pained that the doubles pair is not in the Central Government’s Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme which provides support to the players, the 31-year-old says, “We are very disheartened that we were not in the TOP scheme. It has become a habit. But this is a good way to answer the critics.”
Fresh from her Canada Open triumph along with Ashwini Ponnappa, she says, “What I fail to understand, even after making our country proud, why are we being ignored. It is weird. Every badminton playing country has an exclusive mixed doubles coach, men’s doubles coach and separate women’s doubles coach. It’s just not one coach for all the events.”
With top 13 players making to the Rio Olympics next year, she urges the government to come out and support the doubles specialists in their endeavour to win an Olympic medal next year. “We want a couple of more good matches in coming tournaments and I am not really thinking about Olympics right now. Every match, every tournament is going to be important. We want to perform and do better, we don’t want to just stop at the Canadian open, we want to go higher and higher.’’
The world championship in August will be crucial. “We know that we can win, we have performed at high pressure situations. To win a title was very important for Ashwini and me. So we performed well at crunch time and I think that has given us a lot of confidence, so I am just hoping to do better in the coming tournaments,’’ says the ace shuttler.