World championship medallist hopes to win Olympic medal with this Dubai girl

Indian doubles star Ashwini Ponnappa says she is lucky to be playing with Dubai's Tanisha Crasto


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Ashwini Ponnappa (right) poses with Tanisha Crasto after winning the Guwahati Masters last Sunday. — Badminton Federation of India
Ashwini Ponnappa (right) poses with Tanisha Crasto after winning the Guwahati Masters last Sunday. — Badminton Federation of India

Published: Wed 13 Dec 2023, 8:59 PM

Having earned 11 medals, including two golds, at the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships, the Uber Cup, the Asian Championships and the Asian Games, veteran Indian badminton star Ashwini Ponnappa could have quietly walked into the sunset.

But the idea of hanging up the racquet has never crossed her mind.

This 34-year-old shuttler still wakes up every morning with the same hunger for winning.

In her own words, ‘there's still a lot left to achieve’ and the biggest of them is an Olympic medal.

“Yes, I have achieved quite a few things which have been first and historical,” she told the Khaleej Times.

“But there's still a lot left to achieve. I haven't really won an Olympic medal, so that's what keeps me going.”

The Indian doubles specialist has found a new partner this year in Dubai girl Tanisha Crasto.

Since shifting her base to India, Tanisha, 20, has established herself as one of the elite Indian doubles players.

Her blooming partnership with Ashwini has already clinched three gold medals at international events this year, with the most recent being the Guwahati Masters last Sunday.

In her pursuit of Olympic glory next year in Paris, Ashwini says she could not have found a better partner than Tanisha.

“I'm lucky to be partnering with Tanisha who is young, energetic, who's got loads ahead of her, and she's got that fire and that spark which is quite contagious,” she said.

“So I'm very happy to take that on, I'm gunning to do very well. And it's nice to have a partner who has got that hunger. And someone who's just starting off because they have that added excitement to be on the court.”

Ashwini first saw the spark in Tanisha a few years ago at a national camp in India.

“I realised that she's from Dubai, born and brought up there, it's pretty amazing because she's got that fighting spirit and that ‘go, get it’ attitude,” Ashwini said of the former Indian High School (Dubai) student.

“Even though we have a really big age gap, I think that doesn’t really matter when we are on court. I do tend to be more like a mentor but on court, we do share our views on the game plan.

“At the end of the day, it’s a partnership, irrespective of how big the age gap is.”

Despite the promising start to their journey as a new pair, Ashwini says they will take one step at a time on the road to the 2024 Paris Games.

“I would say the goal, of course, is to qualify for the Olympics. But that is not the only goal because we have so many tournaments ahead of the end of the qualification period,” she said.

“And I would say our immediate goal is to do well in every single tournament. And as long as we do that, we are good. If you're meant to qualify, you will.”

Finally, she opened up about how it feels to have played a part in India’s glorious badminton revolution over the past 10-12 years.

While PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen have put India on the world map in singles, new stars Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have taken giant strides in doubles after Ashwini, alongside her former partner Jwala Gutta, set the benchmark with medal-winning performances.

“It feels pretty awesome. I am grateful to have been in that era and also to be in the current era where you have a lot of young players and a lot more opportunities,” she said.

“India have got so many international tournaments now which was not the case in the past, so that speaks volumes of how much the sport has grown.

“The men’s team won the Thomas Cup, it was huge, it was like the cricket team winning the World Cup. The women’s team have also won the bronze at the Uber Cup.

“So India is up there now with the best in the world.”


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