Sports Ministry set to include Jwala-Ashwini in TOP scheme

The Sports Ministry is set to include shuttlers Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa in the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme even as it extended support to national coach Pullela Gopichand, who was accused of bias by the top women’s doubles pair.

A Ministry official confirmed that Jwala and Ashwini will be included in the next list of TOP athletes.

“Since we have approved a doubles coach for the badminton players, we decided to include the top badminton players in the TOP scheme. And as there is no better pair than Jwala and Ashwini, they will soon enter the set of TOP players for Olympics,” the official told.

Ashwini had recently joined Jwala in criticism of Ministry and Gopichand, who is also in the TOP committee, for not including them in the scheme.

The official insisted the Ministry would have included the two shuttlers even without the noise they made over their exclusion from the list. He also said that it was unbecoming of Jwala and Ashwini to level baseless allegations against Gopichand.

“They should not have spoken against Gopichand. Not even once in the TOP meetings he spoke against Jwala and Ashwini. He is a man of huge stature and a role model for many Indians. In fact it is because of him we agreed on hiring a doubles coach,” the official said.

He added that financial assistance to the doubles specialists will be given out from Rs 10 crore contribution made by India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL).

Besides Saina Nehwal, the other badminton players in the TOP program are Parupalli Kashyap, Kidambi Srikanth, H S Prannoy, RMV Gurusaidutt and P V Sindhu.

Following Jwala and Ashwini’s controversial remarks on Gopichand, the player-turned-coach had outrightly rejected their claims saying they have been given full support.

“It is too often that they (Jwala-Ashwini) have been saying this. They need to be specific about their issues. Whatever tournament they have been playing, they have been supported by SAI, BAI and the Government of India. Whatever support they have asked, has been given.

“Under the TOP scheme, it was said that as a joint program for singles, we will support singles players as a group. So four players were picked then. Similarly, doubles as a group will be supported in the scheme,” he had said.