You'd think that an athlete winning an international tournament and bringing home accolades would mean something to the Indian sports ministry. Sadly, it doesn't.
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa are ranked 13 in the world Badminton doubles rankings right now and that might improve given that they just won the Canada Open on Sunday. The duo won the doubles title after upstaging the top-seeded Dutch pair of Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek in the summit clash in Calgary, Canada. But sadly, there is still no real support from the Sports Ministry.
Today, rumours floating around Twitter said the reason why they have not been included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) funding program as the selection committee feels they are not medal hopes.
"For any athlete waking up to this can be devastating and can completely shatter their morale," says Gutta, 31, in an interview with Firstpost. "After everything we've won, and continue to win, we deserve to be in the TOPS list, it is our right. Gopichand on the selections committee has had it out for us and refuses to give us our due"
Gutta has time and again expressed her disappointment, saying that neither she nor Ashwini as the support of the Badminton Association of India (BAI).
"How can they say we are not medal hopes? How many in your so called list are? " she questions. Gutta poignantly points out that even World no 1 Saina Nehwal would not have been World no 1 without the backing and 200 percent support she has received from the Sports Ministry and BAI.
"If more athletes had 200 percent support from the authorities we would have a lot more World no 1's than just Saina," Gutta said.
She is a vociferous supporter of the fact that the politics are sending the wrong message to youngsters who want to take up badminton. "The message going to youngsters is don't take up badminton, the sport is not going to support you."
She believes that it was the athlete's jobs to perform, work hard and win medals for the country. Not to try and appeal for funds and petition their cause, her performance should be enough.
"The PM and the Sports Ministry talk about developing sports in the country and matching China's sports programs. But how will that be possible without support?"
"We pay for our training and physiotherapy ourselves, the gym at the academy I train at in Hyderabad was donated by me. Where is the support?" She questions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi came out and congratulated Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa on Twitter. "I love that our PM tweeted out his support but I know he is a busy man and would just like him to intervene and do what's right."
Does her outspoken attitude work against her? Gutta believes differently. "How does it matter what a player says if they follow it up with accolades and achievement?" she says. "I represent India, I play for India, I bring home medals for India, if there was nothing wrong why would I create a controversy?"
Gutta is now hoping to change the Ministry's mind on the issue. "I have to go to Delhi, and hope the Minister will meet me. The last time when I met him in March he assured us that we would be on the list."
However despite all the hoopla surrounding her and Ashwini's inclusion in the TOPS list, she is undeterred from her ultimate goal of getting to the Rio olympic in 2016. But her more immediate focus: the World Championship in August this year in Jakarta.
Updated Date: Jul 03, 2015 09:20:21 IST