From Kodagu with love to London Olympics
It is a matter of pride and joy that five players from Kodagu (Coorg), the tiny hill district in Karnataka, famous for its outstanding sportspersons, will be participating in 2012 London Olympics.
Appanervanda Appanna Ganapathy (Pavin), a former sports journalist who hails from Kodagu, has profiled the ‘fab five’ from Kodagu, in this exclusive article for www.coorgtourisminfo.com, the first news portal of Kodagu.
The three hockey players representing the Indian team are Sannuvanda Kushalappa Uthappa, Sunil Somwarpet Vittalacharya, and V.R. Raghunath. Machimanda Ashwini Ponnappa will be part of the Indian shuttle team and Machanda Rohan Bopanna will be a part of the Indian tennis team in the Olympics.
Here is a low down on each of the sportsperson bound for London:
Young Gonikoppal forward, S K Uthappa, left an indelible mark at every stage right from being adjudged the best player in the 2011 Senior National championship in Bhopal where Karnataka finished runners-up.
Uthappa made his international debut against South Africa in 2012 duringthe first match of the Karbonn Cup Hockey five-match Test series. Based on his performances against South Africa, Uthappa was selected to play in the 2012 Olympic Qualification Tournament. He went on to play in all 6 matches in the tournament scoring one goal in the first match against Singapore.
His body feint is admirable and sense of passing good and has matured
superbly as a player. All eyes will be on this young Kodava lad who has the potential to scale greater heights.
S.V. Sunil Acharya starred in India’s brilliant performance against Pakistan in Azlan Shah Hockey Cup. He played his first senior international at Chennai in the 2007 Asia Cup, which India won that year. He was part of the team that won Silver at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Sunil’s hockey career came to a halt due to injury in the run up to the 2010 World Cup. However, with patience, he continued in the rehabilitation program, and made a mark in the selection trials held recently. Sunil has now evolved into an ace forward with his deft mesmerizing sliding tackles and speedy run along the ball will prove a real threat to the opponents.
Deep defender V. R. Raghunath knows the challenges of being a part of the side that faced flak for not qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years in 2008. He has worked on his defending skills to add to his powerful drag flicks and now wants to go all out and win laurels for his team and himself.
Raghunath, after living under the shadow of his more illustrious teammate Sandeep Singh, is slowly stamping his own space in the team. Undoubtedly,the two penalty corner experts make a heady combo.
The ‘Wembley Arena’, venue for the badminton event in 2012 Olympic would witness the 24-year-old, charming Kodavathi, Machimanda Ashwini Ponnappa pairing up with the senior pro Jwala Gutta.
Ashwini has come a long way in the last four years from being an unknown junior face to representing India at the Olympics. Ashwini believes she and her partner Jwala Gutta have a bright chance of winning a medal at London Games since this charming pair with looks also displays a perfect mix of youth and experience.
Ashwini started playing with Jwala only in 2009 but the pair soon achieved success and actually brought the women’s double badminton in reckoning in the country after their gold medal winning feat at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Their experience of playing at the Wembley Arena in 2011 where they won the World Championship bronze would add on to their confidence since the venue would be same for all the badminton events to be held during the London Olympics.
Ashwini completed her schooling in Bangalore before moving to St Mary’s College Hyderabad for her Bachelor’s Degree. In 2001, Ashwini Ponnappa won the Indian junior championships. She won the gold medal at the South AsianGames held in 2006.
Thirty-two-year-old strapping Kodava Indian professional tennis player Machanda Rohan Bopanna has been selected to participate in the 2012 London Olympics in the men’s doubles category with Mahesh Bhupathi amidst controversy that Indian tennis has been witnessing regarding the selection of the team for London Olympics.
The selection for the Olympics became a national debate and it was
embarrassing the way players fought to play with their favourite partners,ignoring the decision made by the All India Tennis Association (AITA).
Bopanna and Bhupathi have a point to prove. They have been training
together from the past 7-8 months, but their chances do not look good. They have had victories against some good pairs but their performance in Grand Slams has not been impressive as they have not gone beyond the third round in the three Grand Slams they played together.
Bopanna is known for setting an example of Indo-Pak camaraderie on tennis circuit by pairing up with Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi. The duo, nicknamed the Indo-Pak Express, won several titles after partnering together for the first time in 2007. However, it was only in the 2010 season that the pair broke into the top 10 doubles teams. That year, they reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, finished runners-up in the US Open and in five ATP Tour events, and won the Johannesburg Open.
His singles career high ranking was 213th in 2007. Recently, most of his appearances in professional tournaments have been in doubles matches. He has been a member of the Indian Davis Cup team since 2002. Bopanna also played a decisive role in India’s 2010 Davis Cup triumph over Brazil, taking India back to the World Group for the first time since 1998.In 2008, Bopanna won the men’s doubles title at the 2008 Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles with partner Eric Butorac.
Bopanna was nominated in 2010 as a Champion for Peace by Monaco-based organization, Peace and Sport for his efforts in bridging political barriers through sports.
Bopanna is currently ranked 13th in the world in the doubles rankings. He reached his career high doubles rankings on 13 June 2011 when he was ranked world no. 9 in the ATP Rankings.
Bopanna donates part of the profits generated by sales of ‘Stop War Start Tennis’ merchandise to GoSports Foundation – a not for profit organisation that works towards empowering sporting excellence in India.
In his hometown Coorg, he works towards generating funds for an Opportunity School that caters to the educational needs of physically handicapped children. Rohan also supports the Coorg Institute of Dental Sciences that endeavors to provide low cost dental treatment and holds several free health and awareness camps.
With so much controversy surrounding the tennis players, hope Bopanna and Mahesh do not allow the fracas to affect them and continue with good performance in the Olympics. The pair in a recent interview to a magazine,felt they were hopeful of winning on account of their preparedness.
KODAGU AND SPORTS:
What makes this tiny district produce players ready to take on Olympic competition? Maybe, the innate rugged frontier spirit among Coorgs that craves adventure in any form. Sport is one of the many mediums and has,from time immemorial, long played an important social and cultural role in Coorg, providing a form of social cement during festivals where one could exhibit his skill and rugged frontier spirit. Sport in Coorg just might be more deeply and meaningfully cultural than in any other district in India.
Kodagu has till date provided 50-odd players who have participated in
International hockey tournaments. The hockey festival held in Kodagu has already found a place in the Limca Book of Records.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The content for this article was written by Appanervanda Appanna Ganapathy (Pavin), who started his career as an English lecturer. But the love of writing and sports drew him to Indian Express as a sports correspondent. He later joined The Asian Age. The web boom saw him joining Indiainfo.com as Quality Manager.
He also worked with Star TV as Assistant Producer, where he prepared News and Sports Specification for Interactive Television. Presently, Appanna works with IBM as a lead researcher.