Women doubles badminton players Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta are pondering over a move to write to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to intervene regarding the sports ministry’s arbitrary decision to keep them out of the government-funded Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).
Ponnappa told dna that “soon they will be writing to PM Narendra Modi regarding their apathy and to urge him to intervene as it has only been because of one person Pullela Gopichand that despite being top-ranked in India for so many years, they have been kept out of TOPS at a time when everyone is expecting us to win a medal at Rio Games”.
“Yes, we are looking at that aspect as well. It’s on our mind. Both Jwala and I have been subjected to step-motherly treatment. We have no access to specialised physiotherapist, mental trainer, sports psychologist and, despite these, we are performing so well. Lack of government funding is hurting our Rio chances. It looks like they don’t think that we can do (win a medal at Rio) that,” Ponnappa said dna.
It must be mentioned here that Gutta has often accused chief national coach Gopichand of bias while keeping her out of TOPS.
But, for the first time, Ponnappa has come out in the open, blaming Gopi as the man behind their “miseries” and deliberately treating the pair “unfairly”.
“We won the Canada Open and Commonwealth Games medal and are currently World No. 10 in doubles rankings. The ministry’s little support through National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) is not enough for our Rio preparation. We need a scheme like TOPS to possibly win a medal at the Rio,” the Bengaluru-based shuttler said.
The anger stems from the fact that while five of the shuttlers, who are part of the TOPS funding, are from Hyderabad-based Gopichand badminton academy, the veteran doubles pair of Jwala-Ashwini had been asked by the Ministry to come up with a presentation to list out their achievements.
While Ponnappa accused Gopichand of excluding them from TOPS, she confronted the 41-year-old coach with a direct charge of “conflict of interest” by selecting his own academy players in the national side.
“There’s definitely a serious conflict of interest. Tell me, he is the chief coach who is also running his own academy from where majority of players are getting selected. What are his priorities – coaching the academy players or discharging his duties as national coach?” she said.
The 25-year-old Ponnappa said that it would be difficult for the pair to train under new doubles coach Tan Kim Her if the Malaysian was based out of his academy.
“We are not going to step into his academy. We would request the ministry to have him placed at a separate venue which is not part of any academy,” she said.