Exclusive: Dubai-born badminton player eyes Olympics, top 10 world ranking

I'm giving it the best possible shot I can, said Tanisha Crasto who won the Abu Dhabi Masters title with Ashwini Ponnappa


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Tanisha Crasto (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa recently won the Abu Dhabi Masters title. — Supplied photo
Tanisha Crasto (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa recently won the Abu Dhabi Masters title. — Supplied photo

Published: Fri 3 Nov 2023, 11:26 AM

To pursue her dream of becoming a professional shuttler, Tanisha Crasto had a big decision to make at the age of 15 – whether to continue living a comfortable life in Dubai with her parents or to grind out a way to the top in the cut-throat world of Indian badminton.

Eventually, Clifford, Tanisha’s father and her first coach, put everything on the line — his career, life savings — to help his daughter build her game in India.

It was a sacrifice that has changed her life.

Tanisha, 20, is now one of India’s elite badminton players, a specialist in women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

Having made a smooth transition from the juniors to the senior level, Tanisha made her Asian Games debut in China recently — seven months after playing a part in India’s first-ever bronze medal-winning performance at the Asian Mixed Team Badminton Championships.

Now this Dubai-born shuttler has set her sights on a bigger goal.

Tanisha wants to go to Paris next year for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Armed with the support of her new partner Ashwini Ponnappa, a pioneer in women’s doubles in India, Tanisha is brimming with confidence.

“I think we have a fairly good chance of making it to the Olympics. I’m giving it the best possible shot I can. I am working very hard with her,” the youngster told the Khaleej Times after a training session in Dubai.

Tanisha and Ashwini have already made winning a habit, with the Abu Dhabi Masters title being the latest piece of silverware.

“We also won the Nantes Challenge (in France) and a couple of ranking tournaments in India. Then we won the bronze at the Indonesia Masters,” she said.

“So our partnership is growing strong and we will be playing a lot of tournaments now to earn those points to qualify for the Olympics.”

Only the world’s top 16 teams will qualify for Paris.

“We are ranked 30 now, but we are very confident of getting there. In fact, we want to become one of the top 10 teams in the world,” Tanisha said.

Her partner, Ashwini, has already been a top 10 player in women’s doubles.

An icon of the sport in India, Ashwini’s partnership with Jwala Gutta earned her a historic bronze at the 2011 World Badminton Championship, a gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the 2014 Asian Badminton Championship.

“I’ve been looking up to her since I was a little girl,” Tanisha smiled.

“So I am very, very lucky actually now to be able to play with her. There’s so much I want to learn from her. I think she’s amazing. She’s very motivating. She’s always got my back. I feel that’s the best part about our partnership!”

What is even more inspiring for Tanisha is to see the fire that still burns in Ashwini.

At 34, the Indian doubles legend still spends hours and hours in the practice courts for another tilt at Olympic glory.

“I think she is not only an inspiration to me, but to every other girl who’s playing in India because she has done so much for India and still she is going strong,” Tanisha said with an admiring glance at her illustrious partner.

“She is a very big inspiration for every girl in India, that anything is possible. If you have the will and determination and the fire, you can do what you want to do. So I feel blessed to have her as my partner. I could not have asked for more!”


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