Rio Olympics 2016: Can Jwala Gutta complete the last piece of the puzzle?
The dictionary defines the word, ‘overshadow’ as something that highlights a particular thing more prominently than the rest of the issues surrounding it. In Indian badminton, if there was a shuttler who will associate this word with her for not quite the right reasons, it will be Jwala Gutta.
In a career spanning over a decade-and-a-half, Jwala has been in the news several times, but in the last year or so, not for reasons related to her game on the court, but more to do off it, to the extent that for few the first mention of her name cause her controversies to quickly circle back into the mind.
However, in her long career, Jwala has made the right noises on the court several times as well.
As a 17-year-old, she clinched the doubles title at the World Junior Championships in 2000 and then a couple of years later, won the 1st of her 7 consecutive National titles with Shruti Kurien between 2002 and 2008.
Her success on the doubles front continued even after she changed partners and she and Ashwini Ponnappa began their partnership in triumphant fashion, clinching the gold at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and then a year later, they became only the second shuttlers from the country and the first doubles pair to win a medal at the World Championships in London.
Post the Olympics, Jwala took a small break from the sport, but returned to partner Ashwini for the second time, and they won the silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and also at the bronze at the Asian Championships that year, to reassure their position as the best doubles pair in the country. They were also part of the team that won the bronze medal in the 2014 Thomas and Uber Cup.
2015 proved to be a disappointing year for the duo, as they managed to win just one title but garnered a lot of news for their initial non-inclusion into the Target Podium Olympic Scheme(TOPS) list.
2016 began on a disappointing note with several early eliminations, but like two years ago, they, once again, played a crucial role in India winning their second consecutive Uber Cup bronze, a couple of months back.
The Olympic medal- the only piece missing in Jwala’s puzzle
With so many achievements under her belt, the only medal missing from her cabinet is the Olympic medal and in her third appearance at the Games, she would be eager to claim it and complete,what is really the only piece missing in the puzzle.
This will be a crucial Olympics for Jwala. At the outset of September, she will turn 33 and fours years down-the-line in Tokyo, would be 37. So in all probability, this will be her last opportunity to stand on the podium at an Olympic Games.
Her game seemed to have shown signs of improvement in the Uber Cup, where she displayed a few new tricks near the net and that, along with other shots.
The shuttler has said in the past that she had been putting a lot of work on her fitness to remain in optimum shape come, Rio. She will need to be on top of her game at Rio in order to win that medal and complete the puzzle, that is missing this elusive piece.