|Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa after winning the silver in women’s doubles, in Glasgow, on Sunday
Glasgow: Parupalli Kashyap etched his name firmly in the history books by becoming the first Indian male shuttler in 32 years to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, but the women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had to settle for a silver, here, on Sunday.
A bronze-medallist at the Delhi Games, Kashyap rose to the occasion and held his nerves to eke out a breath-taking 21-14, 11-21, 21-19 win over Derek Wong of Singapore in the final, which lasted over an hour.
The 27-year-old from Hyderabad thus joined legend Prakash Padukone and the late Syed Modi, who had won the title in the past. While Padukone had won the men’s singles final at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Canada, Modi won it four years later.
However, 2010 gold medallists Jwala and Ashwini failed to recreate the same magic as they lost 17-21, 21-23 to world No. 18 Malaysian combo of Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Khe Wei Woon.
Nonetheless, the silver medal is yet another feather in the caps of Jwala and Ashwini who had clinched the 2011 World Championship bronze and also bagged the bronze at the Asian Badminton Championship in April this year.
India thus finished fifth with 64 medals, including 15 gold medals.
It turned out to be a red letter day for world No. 22 Kashyap who bagged the biggest title of his career. He had reached the quarter finals of the London Olympics and won the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in 2012. Up against a tricky player, Wong, who was immaculate with his court coverage and wrist play, Kashyap was rewarded for his positive attitude.
In the first game, Kashyap was leading 14-8 before Wong came back with the help of some precise smashes to gather four straight points. But the Indian soon turned the tables. Kashyap put pressure on his opponent and gathered few points at the net to reach 18-12. Soon, he garnered seven game points after Wong’s return got buried into the nets.
Not ready to take it lying down, Wong changed his game plan and started penetrating the defence of Kashyap to lead 11-6 at the interval. Kashyap committed too many unforced errors while Wong stepped up to move to 15-8.
In the end, a down-the-line smash from Wong and a few wide shots helped the Malaysian make a roaring comeback into the contest. Back to his winning court, Kashyap started the decider on a positive note. His smashes were more accurate and he judged the shuttle well.
Kashyap drew level at 14-14 when Wong found the net and then surged ahead with a bodyline smash. The Indian stepped up the attack and engaged in a fast-paced rally, which ended with Wong hitting long.
Wong found the net again and Kashyap earned a point with a cross-court smash to move to 19-16. The Malaysian, however, soon rubbed off the deficit with a three-point burst but he hit long and wide next as Kashyap burst into celebration. Kashyap said his childhood dream of bagging a yellow metal for the country has finally come true.
“To win gold in this kind of competition is a big deal for me. It’s like a dream. I have dreamt of this since I was a child,” Kashyap said. “I’m so happy. This championship means a lot to me. These Games come every four years and that’s what drove me on.
“I have not played up to my ability but I’ve made it through. I am just so happy for myself and for my country,” he added.
Speaking about the match, Kashyap said: “I won the first set comfortably but in the second set I was becoming too tense. I spoke to my coach Pullela Gopichand and he told me to relax. The key was to hold my nerves and remain calm. I think I did that,” Kashyap revealed.
In women’s doubles, Jwala and Ashwini paid the price for committing too many unforced errors as they first blew up a narrow 15-13 lead in the opening game, before wasting a four game point advantage in the second game.
Ashwini was specially not in her elements today as the Indian failed to connect her strokes, which saw the shuttles going wide and long, resulting in a lot of points for their Malaysian rivals.
The match between the two pairs — separated by just three ranking points — was a rollercoaster ride right from the start as the Malaysian combo could only earn a narrow 11-10 lead at the first interval. (PTI)