Mumbai: India's top women's doubles pair in badminton, seasoned campaigners Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, are aiming to crack the top 10 in world rankings before the year comes to an end.
"We are currently ranked 11th. We had broken into the top ten after the Canadian Open but I fell sick during the Japan and Korea Opens and the rankings have come down a bit. But our aim is to be in the top ten by year-end and also qualify for the Super Series finals (in Dubai)," said the senior of the two players, Jwala, today.
The Indian pair is currently ranked 11th in the Super Series events too and the top eight pairs would qualify for the finals scheduled in Dubai from December 9-13.
Jwala and Ashwini, who bagged the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi and followed it by clinching the bronze in the 2011 World Championships, have been signed up by Not for Profit organisation, Olympic Gold Quest, today.
The two players will be supported by OGQ, jointly founded by sports legends Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi, in the run up to next year's 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it was announced by OGQ's CEO, Viren Rasquinha, at a media conference here.
"We are very excited to be associated with OGQ and it's very important we get this kind of support. It's less than a year to go for Rio and we will work harder and try to achieve better result than earlier (London, 2012). Every professional athlete needs individual attention like in training, nutrition etcetera and OGQ will provide it," said Jwala.
Agreeing with her partner, Ashwini said "We are looking forward to working harder and doing better than before in all the tournaments prior to and in the Olympic Games. We need a fit body to give 100 per cent. They (OGQ) will give us 100 per cent support if we need anything."
Asked about Rio, Jwala said she and her partner were on target to qualify for the Olympics for which they need to be in the top 16 at the cut-off date - April 30.
Immediately the pair's aim is to do well in China open, starting on November 10, followed by the Hong Kong (from November 17) and Macau Open (from November 24).
"(Post OGQ support) We will have better preparations, focus more on the game, more on the tiny things that will make a difference and also increase our chances of doing well at the Olympics. (Sense of) insecurity and stress has gone down. I am sure we are going to do well." said Ashwini.
"We hope to qualify for the Super Series finals and by the end of the year remain in top 10," said Jwala who also welcomed the appointment of a specialist doubles coach from Malaysia to train them and other Indian doubles pairs.
"We needed a specialist who understands doubles which is a totally different event. It's very important to have a specialist doubles coach who can identify our strong and weak points.
"People think doubles is for lazy players but they don't realise it's much faster, has more power and reflexes should be faster. The game of doubles needs better understanding which the specialist coach will have," she added.
"Pairs need to have rapport and trust each other. That's very important," added Ashwini.
Both were virtually dismissive of the government's special initiative for Rio - Target Olympic Podium.
"Right now it's OGQ," said Ashwini when asked about TOP to be part of which the two players had fought tooth and nail after they had been left out of the scheme initially.
"I guess we are," said Jwala when asked about being chosen for TOP.
Badminton legend Prakash said Jwala and Ashwini have so far not lived up to their full potential and hoped their association with OGQ will help them do so.
"I hope they do well in the Olympics and in other tournaments as well. They are doing exceptionally well and we felt they can do better with OGQ support. They will get our full support," he said.
Prakash also welcomed the appointment of a specialist doubles coach for the players in Hyderabad, but cautioned the fans and the authorities need to be patient.
"We have been asking for one and finally we have got the specialist coach and hopefully he will make a difference. But he cannot change things overnight. We need to be patient. It will need 2-3 years to see the result," the former All England singles champion said.
Prakash also said Indian badminton was seeing the best phase in its history with a number of players doing well, unlike in the past.
"Indian badminton is at its best phase. Never have we had so many good players at the same time. But for doing well in the Olympic Games you need to be at your peak in that one week as every one will be eager to do well in an event that takes place once in four years," he said.
"You may beat the world champion the week before the Olympics and the week after, but it all boils down to you being at your best during that one week. That's why you need to be mentally strong also," said the Bengaluru stalwart.
He also expected the Indian shuttlers to put up a better show in Rio than in London in 2012 when Saina Nehwal won the bronze in women's singles and P Kashyap entered the men's singles quarter finals.
"We can't say who all will win medals but in this Olympics we will do better than the last time," he said.
Billiards ace Sethi said this was the second Olympics for which OGQ was chipping in with its help.
"This is going to be our second Olympics. We are on target for supporting 200 athletes (Jwala and Ashwini are OGQ's 100 and 101st athletes to be supported) before the 2020 Games," he noted.
"Funding is not going to be a problem, but finding the right talent to support is," said Prakash.