Lucky to be contemporary of Prakash Padukone: Badminton queen Ami Ghia

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Image Credits: Ami Ghia/Wikipedia

Ami Ghia still remembers the day she found a badminton racquet at her home. A school student back then, Ami was the only person in her household to have picked up the sport of badminton.

Today, at the age of 62 years, Ghia, once called the undisputed “Queen” of the game in India, while speaking over phone from her residence in Mumbai, said “My parents have never even seen me playing.” The seven-time national singles champion, eight-time runners up, 12-time gold medalist in the doubles and four-time champion in the mixed doubles had a career spanning over 18 years from 1970 to 1988.

Ghia’s key achievement was the bronze medal in women doubles at the 1978 Commonwealth Games with Kanwal Thakar Singh and in the 1982 Asian Games, Ami Ghia hogged the limelight by winning bronze in women’s team event.

Badminton was kind of a pastime for the Commonwealth Games gold medalist in her early days. Brought up in Mumbai, Ghia used to go to Bombay Gymkhana every evening after returning from school. “Some of my dad’s friends advised him to send me to Gymkhana to get involved in any game for some activity in the evening so that I do not get stressed with studies,” she revealed.

But Bombay Gymkhana finally turned out to be the cradle for Ghia as she graduated to one level after the other. Soon she was in the under-18 category and then started playing in the senior level. “I was going with the flow. I used to enjoy playing badminton and soon I promoted myself from Gymkhana to playing for Bombay and from Bombay to Maharastra and finally to representing the country,” she added.

Ghia remembers playing with several international stars during her days – defeating the All England champion from South Korea in the World Championship, her tussle on court in the domestic circuit with Sujata Jain and later with Madhumita Singh Bist. Not just that Ghia particularly cherishes the time spent with Prakash Padukone. “All of us were inspired just by watching him. We tried to take our standard of the game to his standard in those days. I feel this was another important, but a silent achievement of Prakash (Padukone),” commented Ghia who shared some fond memories on the former.

“We stood on the same podium in 1978 with with gold medals. Apart from that, we have toured together for around 10 years. I was lucky to have watched his training every time the national team used to practice before any international competitions.”

The mother of two boys, Ghia quit professional badminton in 1988. “There was no pressure from my family to stop playing the sport. I chose to give first priority to my family. But I do not have any regret for that.”

Ghia nowadays watches present-day badminton on television. The top three shuttlers of the country – Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, and Kidambi Srikanth are her favourites. She generally does not miss watching these three players’ game and enjoys learning.