Jwala Gutta: It is going to be very difficult in Tokyo 2020

Jwala Gutta, once India’s doubles mainstay, questions the system and its inability to produce champions beyond Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu.

Ace doubles shuttler Jwala Gutta is surprised how India is still behind China despite exposure and good training.   -  V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

India has picked up two medals in badminton at the Olympics. Saina Nehwal won bronze at London 2012 while P. V. Sindhu went a step further by winning silver at Rio 2016. Can the country keep up its streak in Tokyo 2020, if not better it? Jwala Gutta, once India’s doubles mainstay, isn’t too optimistic about it.

“I don’t think it is going to be better than the last time. It is going to be very difficult,” said the two-time Olympian at an event here on Tuesday. “Being a sportsperson, I am hoping (for medals) but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t have any.”

Despite Sindhu’s gold medal and B. Sai Praneeth’s bronze at the World Championships, injuries and inconsistency prevailed in 2019.

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Doubles overhaul needed

Having won one gold, two silver and three bronze medals in doubles – women’s and mixed – at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Championships, Jwala is well placed to judge the doubles coaching structure in the country. And she believes that the entire system needs a complete overhaul – right from the U-13s – if India wants to find its footing there.

“In each tournament, the Japanese field four to five pairs. Even in singles. We have Saina, Sindhu, Srikanth, Sai and nothing beyond them. What has been happening for the past ten years? We are nowhere near China or anyone,” she said, questioning the system in place currently.

Last year, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were the only bright spot in the doubles circuits – be it men’s, women’s or mixed. They became the first Indian men’s pair to win a Super 500 title (Thailand Open) and followed it up by reaching the French Open Super 750 final.

In women’s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy had a forgettable year as they made 13 first-round exits, and were ousted from the second round thrice across tournaments.

“When I played both the events (Olympics), I was in the top 10. After me, things should be better, isn’t it? Technology, food, exposure. Everything is better. I used to play four tournaments a year. Now they play 20. And we have only one pair!”

“Tomorrow if Satwik and Chirag get injured, who will represent us then? And we are a population of 130 crores.”

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