India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.
August 14, 2011: Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa win women’s doubles bronze
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa made history by becoming the first Indian pair to win a medal at the World Championship.
At the World Championships in London in 2011, the focus was on India’s ace badminton player Saina Nehwal. However, she bowed out of the tournament, losing in the quarterfinals of the women’s singles. Thereafter, the doubles combination of Jwala Gutta, 27, and Ashwini Ponappa, 22, brought India some cheer by winning the women’s doubles bronze.
They made history by becoming the first Indian pair to win a medal at the World Championship. For the record, the duo lost to the fifth-seeded Chinese pair, Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, 14-21, 16-21 in the semifinals.
En route to the last four round, Jwala and Ashwini had stunned second seeds Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien of the Chinese Taipei in the second round before disposing off 12th seeded Indonesian pair of Vita Marrisa and Nadya Melati in the quarterfinals.
The first medal, a bronze, won by an Indian at the World Championship was by the legendary Prakash Padukone in the men’s singles in 1983.
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“It is a truly remarkable achievement. They (Jwala and Ashwini) surprised many in England, but certainly not me,” said the former All England champion and coach, Pullela Gopichand. “Before the event, I had said that this pair is the one to watch out for along with Saina at the championships,” he recalled.
Both Jwala and Ashwini are proud of the fact that they proved they are a force to reckon with at the highest level. “Our victory over second-seeded pair of Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien in the second round is perhaps a proof of this,” Jwala said. “Well, the bronze in the Worlds is something which we will not forget easily. It is certainly one of the most memorable moments of my career and I’m sure Ashwini would share my feelings,” said a delighted Jwala.
The Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa partnership was one of the most successful ones in Indian badminton. The pair went on to win bronze at the 2014 Asian Games and Uber Cup and also won silver in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Gutta-Ponappa is the first and so far only Indian women’s doubles team to win a Grand Prix title (Canadian Grand Prix). The duo represented India in two Olympic Games too (2012 and 2016).
(Compilation based on the articles published in The Hindu and Sportstar)