Threatened with a ban by the administrators and labelled an enfant terrible by her detractors, ace shuttler Jwala Gutta says such has been the "hurt and pain" of the last six months that she has not been able celebrate her bronze medal at the recent Asian Badminton Championships to the fullest.
India's best doubles player, Jwala had to endure a bitter legal battle with the Badminton Association of India after its disciplinary committee recommended a life ban on her for allegedly delaying a match between Krrish Delhi Smashers and Banga Beats in the Indian Badminton League last year.
The 30-year-old Hyderabadi, who has brought many laurels to the country in her over-a-decade-long career, today said the bronze medal at the Asian Badminton Championship has healed some of the pain that she went through last year.
"This medal is sort of revenge for me. I am now playing with vengeance. There is a lot of hurt and pain. If I would not have had to go through the trauma of what happened six months back, I would have enjoyed this medal win with more calmness," Jwala told PTI.
"What happened to me was completely unnecessary. Why should a sportsperson go through it? I didn't demand money for my achievement, I demanded respect and acknowledgement. But there has been nothing. Why doubles is discriminated?" the feisty player asked.
"Frankly, I don't understand why I have to prove myself again and again. I have achieved enough and I am proud of my achievements. I won medals at Commonwealth Games, World Championship, I represented India in Olympics. Even the bronze at ABC is a first for Indian badminton. There is still no one in the team to replace me and Ashwini.
"We have achieved all that without support. But even today we have to struggle for sponsorship," she added.
A Commonwealth Games gold, a bronze at 2011 World Championship and qualifying for London Olympics, Jwala has achieved it all but despite her accomplishments, she has found herself at the receiving end of BAI's ire time and again.
The 14-time national champion has once again answered her critics with her performance and buoyed by her feat at the ABC, Jwala is now targetting a medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
"Playing the next Olympics is my main aim. I started playing again after the break only because I want to win a medal at Rio Olympics," Jwala said.
"Qualifying for the London Olympics in two events was a very big achievement for me. Now, I want to try and win a Olympic medal, I will give my last shot. I don't want to have any regrets. I want to end my career with an Olympic medal."
Asked about rankings, Jwala said: "I focus more on matches and performance and don't want to calculate much. But I think a place inside the top 15 by this year end would be good.
"I hardly played six tournaments after coming back and after the ABC performance, our ranking will improve further, which is a good sign. I am stronger now.
"Mentally, I think I am stronger. After all the nonsense that happened, I'm able to block myself under pressure and moreover I am playing just one event, women's doubles. So I am more relaxed," added Jwala, who is looking to focus on her strengths.
Her women's doubles partner, Ashwini Ponnappa too is upbeat about their latest achievement and said it has come at the right moment for the duo.
"It has been a great confidence-booster for us. It is important that we keep playing as many tournaments as possible and I am sure we will get better with time. We have played well in ABC. We are headed in the right direction," Ashwini said.
Asked about areas that the two need to improve on, she said: "I think we need to be more consistent. That is our focus and personally for me, I need to add more variety in my game. It is important to vary the game to break the rhythm of opponents in match situation."
"We will be playing a few tournaments in June but before that it is all about Uber Cup now. It is the biggest tournament in India and the focus is to do well for India at the Uber Cup," she added.