Why Tanisha Crasto returned to Dubai after qualifying for Olympics

'City Times' speaks to Dubai-born shuttler Tanisha Crasto who is all set to make her Olympic debut in Paris this year


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Wed 17 Apr 2024, 6:38 PM

With a racquet in her hand, Tanisha Crasto rested her head on her father’s left shoulder, both looking content with life and striking a pose for the camera on the badminton courts at the India Club in Dubai.

This was a daughter’s way of showing gratitude to her father who had moved heaven and earth for her, quitting his job in Dubai and moving from one crowded city to another in India so she could carve a niche of her own.

Tanisha was itching to get back to Dubai after earning her ticket to the Paris Olympics during last week’s Asian Badminton Championships — the last qualifying event for this year’s Summer Games (July 26-August 11).

The 20-year-old shuttler wanted to celebrate the greatest moment of her life with her Dubai-based parents who had sacrificed a lot to help her chase the Olympic dream.

So, there she was, hitting a few shots with her father, Clifford, who was also her first coach, at the badminton courts of the India Club where she had taken baby steps more than a decade ago as an aspiring player.

For the past five years, Tanisha has been training under the iconic Pullela Gopichand at his famous academy in Hyderabad.

The exposure to the best coaches and the best training methods in Hyderabad have made Tanisha an elite double player who has even won a gold medal with the Indian team at this year’s Asian Team Championships.

But reaching the Olympics was a dream that started in Dubai when she was around 10 years old, showing a rare spark, beating players from the older age groups and even boys who would be left in awe of her talent and power.

No wonder she felt like stepping on the India Club courts again with her father after fulfilling her childhood dream.

“It's very emotional. This is where it all started, and today if I had made it to the Olympic stage, I feel like not only for me, but for my parents, it is such a big moment,” she said.

“Now there are so many people coming and congratulating us and I genuinely love it, I love coming back to Dubai where my journey started. This will always be my home.”

Out of her comfort zone

The Olympics would not have happened if Tanisha had not dared to get out of her comfort zone in Dubai in 2018 to gain a foothold in the hugely competitive world of Indian badminton.

“I did have a lot of breakdowns in India after training, which was tough and after my matches. A lot of times I questioned myself, but I feel like at the end of the day, it’s all worth it. Nothing comes easy in life, and hard work actually pays off,” she said.

“A lot of sacrifices have been made. It was not easy staying away from my family, it was a complete change of lifestyle, and nothing was easy. But today when I look back, it feels like everything was worth it. Had I not moved to India probably I would not have been at this level today.

“So I do look back at those times and I am very happy about the decision that my family and I made, because of that, I am here at this level today. It does feel great coming home, and also visiting all those places where I trained when I was younger, now when I look back, it feels really nice.”

The gamechanger

Until 2022, Tanisha’s only chance of reaching the Paris Olympics was in mixed doubles. But something magical happened in January 2023, when she got a call from Ashwini Ponnappa.

A World Championship medallist and a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, Ashwini, 34, invited Tanisha for dinner in Hyderabad.

Not knowing what to expect from a senior player, Tanisha arrived at a restaurant and was pleasantly surprised when the doubles legend offered her a chance to become her new partner.

“Their partnership was built on a dinner table at a Hyderabad restaurant,” Clifford said.

“Ashwini was looking to play the Olympics again and she needed a good, young partner. So she told Tanisha, ‘let's try this for one year, and see where we can reach’.”

Now more than a year later, Ashwini and Tanisha have reached the Olympics on the back of their tournament wins in Abu Dhabi, Guwahati (India) and Nantes (France) as well as some solid performances in Indonesia, Malaysia and Spain.

“I count all my blessings, all the people that have prayed for me. I feel it’s because of the blessings I found a partner like Ashwini didi (sister),” Tanisha said.

“She is a part of my life and I think it’s been little more than a year since she and I started playing together. She has brought in a lot of discipline in me, she has made me a much calmer person and taught me so many things related to badminton.

“More than anything else, she taught me the importance of teamwork in good days and bad days. We have always been one team. That’s the most important thing. If we lose, we lose together, if we win, we win together.

“So that was the game-changer for me. I don’t think I would have found a better person to learn from. I will cherish this part of my life forever.”

Olympic goosebumps

Less than two months from now, Tanisha will walk alongside Ashwini and other members of the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony in Paris.

“Of course, that is giving me goosebumps already, it’s a great feeling. It feels great that I am being part of the Olympics, I don’t even know how I am going to feel I once I go for the opening ceremony and walk there alongside the world’s greatest athletes at the stadium,” said Tanisha who is also hoping to return from the Games with a medal.

“I think more than anything, it will be a great moment for my parents to sit there and witness it. As much as this was a dream of mine, it equally was an even bigger dream for my parents. So I think it will be a great moment for them to sit there and watch the opening ceremony. I can’t wait for that night in Paris.”


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