Jwala gearing up for Rio Olympics

The ace shuttler wants to put all the controversies behind her, including her acrimonies with chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand, and concentrate on the goals ahead. "We want to look beyond all this. Our ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal," she said.

Jwala Gutta is excited to work under specialist doubles coach Kim Tan Her.   -  Mohammed Yousuf

Jwala (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa are looking to end the year on a high.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

India’s top women’s doubles specialist Jwala Gutta has set her sights on winning an Olympic medal at the Rio Games next year. The 32-year-old, partnering Ashwini Ponnappa, wants to end the year on a high and is targeting to break into the top five in the world rankings. The duo will take part in the doubles camp that is starting at the Gopi Chand Academy, under the supervision of Kim Tan Her, from tomorrow.

“We wanted to break into the top 10 by the year end, but since that has been achieved, the focus is now on top five,” Jwala said. “The big powerhouses in world badminton are fielding four doubles combinations. That makes winning a title doubly difficult. But we are still confident.”

Speaking about working with Kim, the renowned Malaysian doubles coach, Jwala said: “Kim has a fair idea about our game. We will try to work out the combinations better and also address whatever weakness we have in our game.”

Jwala, who won a bronze medal in women’s doubles at the 2011 World Championships, still has her own personal trainer, but is looking forward to work with Kim. She, though, is not mightily pleased with the choice of the training venue. “We did suggest some alternative venues. But it’s strange that the national coach’s contract has a clause that stipulates that he can train only at a particular venue,” Jwala said with a wry smile. “In a way, we are compelled to train at this academy. But I don’t want to waste my energy in these debates. Even if I make a lot of noise, nothing is going to change. We just need to make the most of this opportunity, learn everything we can from Kim and then try to realise our targets.”

Spelling out the importance of having Kim around, Jwala said: “The best part of this training programme is that Kim will be travelling with us. So, we have the opportunity to make critical assessment during tours and make necessary corrections in our game.” She also reiterated her stand of allowing the Malaysian a free hand. “I am very particular that there should be no interference in doubles training from anyone,” she said.

Jwala, who has been always a vocal critic of the officialdom, thinks that doubles is still not given its due in Indian badminton. “I just have one question. I stopped playing mixed doubles after the 2012 London Olympics. Three years down, we still don’t have a combination that can win a medal at the highest level,” she said. “Make Kim the head coach for the doubles teams. A separate venue should be identified for training doubles players. Focus on the young talent from the age group categories instead of identifying someone only after he/she wins a national title. Everyone concerned should make a concerted effort to see doubles get the importance it deserves – in terms of recognition and sponsorship.”

Speaking about the TOP (Target Olympic Podium) scheme, she added: “Even though we are included in TOP, like many others, we are not sure how the funds are going to be spent. There is no clarity on this for athletes.”

She, however, wants to put all that behind, including her acrimonies with chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand, and concentrate on the goals ahead. “We want to look beyond all this. It is useless. Our ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal,” she said.