Proving their mettle

Ashwini & Jwala...a new high.-S.S. KUMAR

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa make history by becoming the first Indian pair to win a medal at the World Championship. V. V. Subrahmanyam in conversation with the duo.

At the World Championships in London recently, the focus was on India's ace badminton player Saina Nehwal. However, she bowed out of the tournament, losing in the quarterfinals of the women's singles. Thereafter, the doubles combination of Jwala Gutta, 27, and Ashwini Ponappa, 22, brought India some cheer by winning the women's doubles bronze.

They made history by becoming the first Indian pair to win a medal at the World Championship. For the record, the duo lost to the fifth-seeded Chinese pair, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, 14-21, 16-21 in the semifinals.

The first medal, a bronze, won by an Indian at the World Championship was by the legendary Prakash Padukone in the men's singles in 1983.

“It is a truly remarkable achievement. They (Jwala and Ashwini) surprised many in England, but certainly not me,” said the former All England champion and now the National coach, Pullela Gopi Chand. “Before the event, I had said that this pair is the one to watch out for along with Saina at the championships,” he recalled.

Both Jwala and Ashwini are proud of the fact that they proved they are a force to reckon with at the highest level. “Our victory over second-seeded pair of Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien in the second round is perhaps a proof of this,” Jwala said. “Well, the bronze in the Worlds is something which we will not forget easily. It is certainly one of the most memorable moments of my career and I'm sure Ashwini would share my feelings,” said a delighted Jwala.

“Essentially, we understand each other very well. The best part is that both of us are capable of doubling up both in defence and attack with ease,” she said.

The bronze-winning performance has carried Jwala and Ashwini to world No. 17 in women's doubles rankings. “Definitely, this is another great news. It's also a recognition for our consistency,” said Ashwini, who has been playing with Jwala since 2009.

“Her remarkable ability to come up with the big points at the net is a delight to watch. She takes her opponents by surprise at the net,” said Ashwini, who trains at the Pullela Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad.

“Definitely we are on a high and are aiming big. Now the focus is on the 2012 Olympics (London) and we will make every effort to realise our dream of winning a medal at the Games,” she said.

According to S. M. Arif, a Dronacharya Award winner, who first trained Jwala when she was only 10 years old, the bronze at the Worlds is a terrific result. “These girls are capable of producing much better results. I only hope this will spur them on to greater deeds,” he said.