Ashwini Ponnappa needs no introduction. With an extra spring in her step and an extra sting in her smashes, Ashwini had been a stand-out shuttler right through her teens and continued to make waves on the Indian circuit, winning everything that came along her way and never shying away from a challenge. From being a child prodigy who won National Championships consistently to winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, Ashwini has walked down a long road…..and continues to do so unflinchingly….
Records have come and gone for Ashwini as fast as her smash. The fastest smash in Women’s badminton history recorded so far at 260 km/hr belongs to Ashwini. Also, became the first Indian along with Jwala Gutta to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 but nothing stops Ashwini Ponnappa from moving to the next court, her next challenge. From being the child prodigy who gave it all in her sport, she sometimes dons the mentorship role in guiding upcoming young prodigies. One of them happens to be 16-year old Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who Ashwini Ponnappa played mixed doubles with.
In the recently concluded Sudirman Cup in Gold Coast, Australia, the mixed doubles team of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy put up a fantastic show against Indonesia before eventually losing to 10-time World Champion, China. Sportswallah caught up with Ashwini Ponnappa after a tough fight against China and how does she find them mentor role.
Tarun Raman: Hi Ashwini. Firstly, commiserations for the loss against 10-time champions, China at the Sudirman Cup. After winning the first set emphatically, must have been difficult to come out on the losing side?
Ashwini Ponnappa – It was disappointing, but I am glad we gave them a good fight. Players at that level know how to bounce back after losing a set. They don’t give you a chance, you have to take it.
TR: To be frank, nobody gave India a chance against China who are the top seeds and 10-time champions. How would you rate yours and Satwik’s performance?
Ashwini – I would rate out performance quite good, especially considering the fact that this was a first tournament partnering each other.I am happy with the way we played and I know we are capable of playing and performing even better.
TR: Anything strategy you would have wanted to employ differently against the world No. 2 pair of Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong?
Ashwini – Strategy-wise I think we did have a good plan.But towards the end, it’s about holding your nerves and hanging in there.Which I sure we will get with more match practice and experience.
TR: On a slightly different note, when did you realise you had to pick hockey over Badminton, given that your father was a national hockey player?
Ashwini – I never really had to choose. Though my dad was a hockey player I was not put into hockey.It was badminton from the beginning.
TR: You were one-half of India’s most successful women’s doubles badminton team. How difficult was it, ending a successful partnership with Jwala Gutta?
Ashwini – It’s always tough to end a partnership, never easy. But the nice part is that wonderful memories and performances together and a lot of positives to take forward. I’ve learnt a lot and I’m thankful to Jwala for that.
TR: There has been a steady rise of talented female athletes in Badminton. What do you think is the reason for that?
Ashwini – Not too sure really. Probably cause a lot of us are fighters and want to prove ourselves at the biggest stage.
TR: Apart from dogs and music, any hobby of Ashwini the world doesn’t know about?
Ashwini – Not really. Music and books are my go to the source to unwind and relax.I love dogs and being around them always makes me happy.
TR: What next for Ashwini Ponnappa after this tournament?
Ashwini – Next up is the Indonesian Open in two weeks time, followed by the Australian Open.