Pictured: Gronya Somerville. Photo credit: Australian Olympic Committee
Another Olympic debutant in Tokyo is Gronya Somerville, representing Australia in the Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles events.
Gronya came close to qualification in Rio 2016 with her partner, Setyana Mapasa. However, Mapasa was ruled ineligible by the governing body following complication with her nationality change from Indonesia. It’s been a long process for the pair, but they have maintained a relentless force in Oceania as they have gone on to win the VICTOR Oceania Championships every year since 2017.
Throughout their Olympic qualification campaign, the pair celebrated a phenomenal win at the YONEX Canada Open 2019 – a BWF Tour Super 100 tournament, overcoming the higher ranked Koreans, Chang Ye Na and Kim Hyerin, in the final. Their success was soon followed by a string of BWF Grade Three tournament results, including: second place at the YONEX South Australia 2019, winners of the YONEX-SUNRISE Nepal International Challenge 2019 and YONEX/K&D Graphics International Challenge 2019. Their campaign was topped off with their successful defense of the women’s doubles title at the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020.
Similarly, Somerville in the two-time Continental Champion in the mixed doubles too, alongside Simon Leung. The pair celebrated two quarterfinal appearances at the YONEX-SUNRISE Nepal International Challenge 2019 and YONEX/K&D Graphics International Challenge 2019 to aid their Olympic campaign, topped off with another successful defense of their mixed doubles title at the VICTOR Oceania Championships 2020.
Talking of her upcoming experience at her first ever Olympic Games, Gronya took part in our Q+A:
Describe your emotions and thoughts the moment you found out you were 100% going to the Olympic Games.
The moment it was publicly announced was when it 100% real, then I could properly celebrate and tell my friends and family. I felt super proud, reflecting on my hard work and fulfilling my childhood dream. Sharing celebrations with my Mum who has been my number one supporter from the day I picked up a racket and who’s dream was also for me to go to the Olympics also, it feels great to have made her proud.
Although you qualiﬁed for Rio Olympics 2016, your partner Mapasa was ruled ineligible by the governing body after her nationality change from Indonesia, how does it feel to ﬁnally compete with her at the Tokyo Olympics 2020?
It feels unreal after the roller coaster ride that we have had during our partnership. We feel like Rio was definitely a missed opportunity, but we are both just so excited to have made it to an Olympics together after everything we have been through as a pair and to share this event and the court in Tokyo is a special moment for us.
Was the ‘Road To Tokyo’ everything that you imagined (mentally and physically) – or was it harder than you thought?
I think we knew it would be hard, but by the start of 2020 I think I was a lot more tired of travelling and being away than I thought I would be. We were about to go on an eight-week tour of tournaments through Europe and Asia before covid lockdowns stopped that, and I wasn’t looking forward to travelling at that point and just wanted to have a chance to relax.
Obviously COVID had a huge impact on this… How did the pandemic directly impact you directly? Was it more of a hinderance or were you able to benefit from it somehow?
Initially the break was welcome and time at home as I mentioned was really nice. But I think the uncertainty about everything at that time was very stressful. Not knowing if we would have any tournaments soon, having to train from home. The good things were that I enjoyed a lot of time with my family and friends, and I was able to finish my university degree. But it was a very stressful time and hard to stay motivated at training without knowing what next tournament we were training for or even if the Olympics would happen.
What are your expectations for your upcoming debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games?
We don’t really have any expectations as it’s so hard to know what level everyone is at without having played many of our opponents recently, but we want to be able to bring our best game and ideally make it to the quarter finals and beyond.
What are you most looking forward to at the Tokyo 2020 Games?
I’m just looking forward to stepping on court and having some good matches. Being around the best athletes from all around the world every day is also an amazing and inspirational environment.
What activities do you do to cope and relieve your stress and anxiety before a match?
To ease tension, I find joking around with coaches or players a good way to try and make the environment more light-hearted. If I can’t sleep, I’ll try meditating or call friends.
Who are you most looking forward to either watching and/or playing across any discipline?
I’m excited to play Yuta and Higashino in XD and win our pool in Women’s Doubles.
Women’s and Mixed Doubles Group Stage Draws
In the women’s doubles draw, Gronya and Setyana will compete in Group C of the women’s doubles, against the fourth seeds (and reigning HSBC BWF World Tour Champions) Lee Sohee and Shin Seungchan from Korea. The two pairs have come up against each other during the Olympic qualification period in 2019, at both the Gwangju Korea Masters and VICTOR China Open. On both occasions, the Koreans came out on top over three games.
Additionally, they will face Du Yue and Li Yin Hui from China and Denmark’s Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen. It will be the first time that the Australians will be competing against either of these pairs.
Moreover, in the Mixed Doubles, Gronya and Simon will compete against some fresh faces in Group C, having never played any of the pairs in their careers so far.
The fourth seed powerhouse of Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti (Indonesia) sit at the top of their group, alongside Japan’s Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino and Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje.