It is never easy for any sportsperson to stay in peak form for a long period of time, especially while playing back-to-back tournaments. This, according to shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa, is the reason for her and doubles partner Jwala Gutta’s inconsistent performance in the last couple of months.

The doubles specialists, who will be part of the largest ever seven-player Indian badminton contingent for the 2016 Rio Olympics, have made it to only one semifinal this year at the Syed Modi International Championships.
Pressure is always there to perform and stay in top gear,” Ponnappa, who was in the city for Wings for Life World Run, said on Sunday. “But one must understand that this is an Olympic year. We have been playing one competition after another in order to qualify for the Olympics. And in the process, we get exhausted while fighting for that one spot. This results in a bad patch. But none of us are distracted from our sole objective, and that is the Olympics.”

Despite the increase in number of players for the Games, experts are jittery about India’s medal prospects including that of 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, who is unable to get past her semifinal jinx.

“Those who have made it to Rio will now have time to rejuvenate and improve upon their game,” said the Bengaluru-based shuttler.

“At the same time, everyone has his/her opinion. Nobody has control over it. But we all know we are capable of winning medals and are working hard towards it. We are going to drench ourselves for a podium finish,” added Ponnappa, who has Commonwealth gold and silver medals in her cabinet.

The 26-year-old will be competing in her second straight Olympics along with Gutta. And, according to Ponnappa, they stand a chance to win a medal as both of them have matured since the 2012 Games.

“We have similar ambitions, that is to win. If your goals aren’t the same, it is difficult to click. We complement each other.

“Moreover, there will not be more than two Chinese teams, and only 16 pairs have made it. Everything is streamlined. Everyone is going to be under pressure to do well. Anything can happen,” she said.