Commonwealth Games gold medallist doubles shuttler Ashwini Ponnappa has come up a long way in her journey as an accomplished contributor for Indian badminton. The 31-year-old is feeling rejuvenated following the hiatus induced by the lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ponnappa has struggled in recent years with injuries that affected her qualification chances at the Tokyo Olympics. In the last 20 tournaments that she competed in, Ponnappa was eliminated in the first round on 13 occasions. Her only highlights have been reaching the Hyderabad Open and the Maldives International Challenge finals with N Sikki Reddy.
Red Bull Athlete Ashwini Ponnappa
2020 worked out well for Ashwini Ponnappa who has used this time to regain her peak fitness and she is hoping to have a good start to the new year in 2021. Speaking to The Bridge, in an exclusive interview, Ponnappa said, "The new year absolutely excites me. I am looking forward to getting started on competing. I am hoping to express the love and passion I have got for the game while competing and going after my goals with enthusiasm."
Ponnappa stressed on working on her mental strength, distresseing herself off the court and taking help from her coach online. "I’ve been working with a wonderful coach online since lockdown began and one of the best things that came from my sessions with him is mentally feeling refreshed and enthusiastic about being on court, apart from working on other aspects of the game," she adds.
Ponnappa utilised her time during the hiatus and had a scrutiny into her game. "I started the year with an injury and missed out on a couple of tournaments. Managed to play two tournaments before we were struck with the lockdown. For me since I was still recovering from the injury, the break was welcomed. I dint think it would go on and extend for the entire year with no tournaments. 2020 for me professionally has been making use of the time to work on various aspects of my game, mentally and physically. On the personal front it was trying to do things that I dint get time to or was too tired and lazy in the past to do." she says. She believes the lockdown has been of help for the Indian badminton contingent as well. "The break has helped to de-stress and relax. I’m sure the break will help a lot of player get back on track," she adds.
Ashwini Ponnappa on court
Climbing up the Race to Tokyo - BWF Olympic Qualification rankings table, however, is going to be an uphill task for the Bengaluru shuttler. Ponnappa currently ranks 29th in the women’s doubles category alongside N Sikki Reddy, with only the top eight pairs getting a direct qualification.
Ashwini, who has been associated with Red Bull for a long time now believes, "- Red Bull most definitely gives me wings, especially when I really need it. When I was injured I was lucky to have been sent to the Red Bull Athlete Performance Centre in Austria to address my injury and get my body assessed and worked on getting it ready to be back on court."