New Delhi: After much dilly-dallying, the Sports Ministry has included Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa in the TOP scheme, putting an end to the controversy surrounding the doubles duo’s complaint of bias against the Ministry and chief national coach Pullela Gopichand.
Besides Jwala and Ashwini, the men’s doubles pair of Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Atri, ranked 21st in the world, have also been included in the scheme. “Badminton players Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Atri have been selected under the TOP Scheme,” the Ministry said in a release. “These players are entitled to receive funding from NSDF for training and competition in preparation for Rio Olympics 2016,” it added.
Renowned Malaysian doubles coach Kim Tan Her was also roped in by Badminton Association of India (BAI), giving him a five-year contract in July. The Ministry said that the doubles players can now chalk out their plans for the preparation of next year’s Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro. “In a communication sent to these players, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has asked them to start making their training plan in consultation with the Chief Coach of Doubles and list out their requirements,” the Ministry said.
Six shuttlers — London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal, P V Sindhu, P Kashyap, K Srikanth, Guru Saidutt and H S Prannoy were the first to be included in the TOP scheme in April this year. After that Jwala and Ashwini also had requested for their inclusion in the scheme. It was only in July that the Sports Ministry decided to include the celebrated doubles pair in the TOP scheme with a ministry official then saying that their names will be part of the next list of athletes.
I am happy that we have been included now. It will motivate us further and help us better plan our preparation for Olympics,” Jwala had said. “It’s unfortunate that we had to fight it out. Nobody wants it that way, I always believed that we deserved that place. There are 70 athletes being supported by the ministry and not to find a place in there was shocking, something we could not digest.
Ever since the six shuttlers were included in TOP scheme, Jwala and Ashwini had repeatedly expressed their displeasure against the Ministry and Gopichand, who is also in the TOP committee, for not including them in the scheme. Jwala and Ashwini won the 2011 World Championship bronze medal besides winning the Commonwealth Games gold and silver medal in 2010 and 2014 respectively. They have also won the bronze medal at the Uber Cup and Asia Championship last year.
Manu and Sumeeth clinched the Belgian International challenge in Lueven, Belgium last Sunday. They had also won the Lagos International title in July besides reaching the finals of the US Open Grand Prix Gold.