One is fiery and outspoken, the other shy and reserved. But when the two biggest names of Indian badminton come together, sparks fly, both on and off the court. Meet World No. 20 women’s double duo, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. After winning the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, the pair continued their winning streak by getting a bronze medal at Badminton World Championships, 2011 and silver at the Commonwealth Games, 2014. The duo is all set to create Indian Badminton history after qualifying for the Rio Olympics, 2016.
Determination and hard work go hand-in-hand for these brilliant players. Both exude a confidence that speaks highly of their individual capabilities as sportswomen and their camaraderie. Over to the girls themselves.
Both of you are seasoned Olympians, having represented India twice in the quadrennial extravaganza. What does it mean to you?
It means everything. People work so hard to become a part of the world's biggest sports event and to get that opportunity twice in my career, the feeling is beyond words.
Rio is going to be my second time at the Olympics. It means everything to me to be representing my country at the Olympics. I can see my hard work paying off.
Considering all the controversies and setbacks that you have faced in the past, how important is mental strength to you?
I have always believed in doing the right thing and controversies and setbacks can't hold me back. Yes, they did create a negative vibe at times, but they couldn't put me down. I have always had enough mental strength to cope with negativity and ensure complete dedication towards my game.
Mental strength is very important. One might have the skill and determination to work hard and achieve one's goals, but if one isn't mentally tough and believes in oneself, all the skill and hard work will be of no use. Mental strength helps me to push forward and go for it.
Is it doubly hard for women to succeed in sports, compared to men?
Definitely. We live in a male dominated society. Indian women are rarely appreciated, especially when they speak their mind.
I guess it is. Both physically and mentally, I think women go through so much more than men do.
Share your first Olympics experience with us.
The first time I knew I was representing my country, I was ecstatic. The moment I landed in London, I had a sudden surge of pride and confidence. I was really looking forward to this opportunity. Although our matches were in different cities and not in the Olympic village, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
My first experience was amazing, but also a little disappointing. Amazing because it was the first time I had ever been at the Olympics. To be there representing me country amongst elite athletes from all over the world felt incredible. We were at the Olympic village with other international athletes for two days and I loved every bit of it. Game wise, both Jwala and I did give our best and played well, but sadly the women's doubles event had a lot of problems and that was what made it a little disappointing.
What kind of training regime do you follow?
I have been on tour for the last few weeks and have been practicing for eight hours every day. For my diet, I am currently on a high protein diet recommended by my dietician.
Two on-court sessions and one gym session daily. I practice for close to six hours a day.
What role has your family played in giving you your never-give-up attitude?
A huge role I must say. I strongly believe that personality development starts at home and we all represent our parents. In some ways, I think I am a reflection of my parents. My parents believe in themselves and always speak the truth, however blunt it is. I guess I have inherited this trait from them. (laughs).
A major role, as they have always been there for me no matter what. They have guided me and encouraged me to keep going when things were tough. Without their support, positivity and push, I don't think I'd be where I am today.
Any message for your fans and aspiring sportspersons?
We all live and work in a fiercely competitive world, but at the end of the day, we shouldn't forget that we are human beings too and we have a great responsibility towards society. So enjoy doing what you do but also focus on social responsibility.
Be determined and keep working towards your goals.