By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, (IANS) Badminton ace Ashwini Ponnappa, who will be among five shuttlers carrying India’s medal hopes at the London Olympics, is excited to be playing her first Olympics.
“I am very excited that for the first time I am going to the Olympics. Every sportsperson dreams of representing his or her nation at the Olympics. I am really happy that I have been given the opportunity to represent the country,” the 24-year-old athlete told IANS in an interview.
Practising every morning and evening under the watchful eyes of coach Syed Mohammed Arif at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Indoor Stadium and under Edwin Iriawan at the Gopichand Academy at Gachibowli, Ashwini will be pairing with her senior, Jwala Gutta, in the women’s doubles.
The girl from Bangalore, settled here for last few years, is looking forward to giving her best, focussing on staying calm and relaxed.
“Both Jwala and I are working very hard. We are giving our best on court, making sure that we get everything right for the Olympics,” said the charming athlete.
The pair, which won the bronze medal at the World Championship last year and gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, currently ranks 19th in the world.
“Yeah. I am confident, but at the same time you can’t be overconfident. It really depends on how you go and play there. I know Jwala and I can get a medal. But in the end it entirely depends on how we go and play there. The important thing is that two of us are going early there and hope to start very well.”
The shuttlers will leave for London July 24. Ponnappa is satisfied with the time they would get to practise there before the mega event. “Too much time is also not good. We can train here and go.”
The courts in London are not new for Ashwini, who hopes to improve their performance over the last year’s World Championship.
“We had the World Championship in the same arena (Wembley) where we are going to have the Olympics badminton event. We got the bronze last time. I hope it will be a better medal this time. Firstly getting a medal but better than what we did last time in the World Championship.”
Asked whether there would be pressure of expectations, Ponappa said: “Pressure is bound to be there because everyone expects us to do well, but there is no time to think about that. All I am going to focus on is to just go there and play well.”
“There is no point in focussing on pressure. It will be better to focus on the game and how we are going to play.
“Irrespective of whom we have to play we are going to give our best. Hopefully we win each and every match,” she said while “hoping to have a good draw.”
On who would be the main opponents, Ashwini said one can’t underestimate anyone. “Everyone is going to work extra hard for the Olympics. Everyone is going to play really well. At the same time everyone is beatable.”
She admits the toughest challenge would come from the Chinese. “But even they are beatable. It depends on how we play and are mentally prepared,” Ashwini added.