Ashwini Ponnappa is tuning up for the Rio Olympic Games in August. Ranked 14 in doubles badminton, Ashwini and partner Jwala Gutta will have a specialist doubles coach – Malaysian Kim Tan – by their side when they make their second consecutive appearance at the Olympics.
Having participated in the 2012 Olympics, are you less anxious this time (2016)?
We surely know what to expect at Rio. Each Olympics is different and brings different challenges. London 2012 was our first experience. We are aware of tuning up for big events. We also know what factors held us back (last time), so we will work on them.
How are you preparing to tackle higher ranked opposition at the Olympics?
We are training, individually and together, focussing on the coming Olympic Games. This time our doubles coach (Malayisian Kim Tan) will be with us at Rio. He will work specifically with four of us: me, Jwala and the men’s doubles players (Manu Attiri and Sumeeth Reddy).
Jwala had spoken her mind on issues ranging from the need for a doubles coach to Sports Ministry’s support for the Olympics. What do you have to say about it?
I am glad about the support we get. Any support is always welcome, not only for us but for other Indian sportspersons as well. We are relieved and delighted to have Olympic Gold Quest with us and also the Sports Ministry’s TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme).
Do you think India realises that it should support its sportspersons throughout and not after they earn an ‘Olympic quota place’ or after they qualify for the Olympics?
I am not sure (if India realises it should support its sportspersons throughout). It should start (supporting its sportspersons) earlier instead of waiting for the athletes to win quota place or gain Olympic qualification. Indian sportspersons will prepare better with early exposure to international competitions and early support.
Seven Indian badminton players have qualified for Rio. What do you have to say?
A mixed doubles entry would have been great. The team includes two first-time qualifiers in the singles events and men’s doubles players, who are also participating for the first time. Badminton is looking good and I am delighted to be among the seven at the Rio Games.
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