Ashwini Ponnappa, the lady from Coorg has taken women’s doubles in India to great heights. The gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth games won by Ashwini and Jwala proved to the country that India can win laurels not just in singles. The pair has been a prominent women’s doubles pair in the country. Their achievements brought doubles in Indian badminton to the limelight.
Ashwini is one among India’s most talented shuttlers. She is known as one of the hardest hitters among women internationally. She has one of the most thunderous smashes. Her court movement is athletic and fluid which makes her a fabulous attacking player especially from the rear court. Ponnappa had once displayed her amazing skills when she played singles against the Olympic and former world champion Carolina Marin in Premier Badminton League, apart from doubles which is her forte.
She was barely two and a half years old when her mother exposed her to badminton. At the tender age of 8 she was enrolled in a professional academy. The shuttler hails from a family with sporting heritage. Her father has played hockey for India, her uncle was a state level cricketer for Karnataka. She picked up the sport well and made a quick assent to the top. She won her first national championship title in 2004 in the sub- junior girls’ category and again in 2005. Ponnappa won the Girls doubles title again in 2006 and 2007 in the junior Category.
International career of Ashwini Ponnappa
Ashwini paired up with the experienced Jwala Gutta in 2009. Jwala approached to young talented player to pair up for playing doubles internationally. Needless to say it worked out well and they won laurels for the country.
Her major international breakthrough came in 2010 She won the gold medal in mixed doubles and the team events at the South Asian Games. Later in the Commonwealth Games, with partner Jwala Gutta she clinched the gold medal. It was a turning point in her career. The victory brought women’s doubles in India to the fore. The Coorgi established herself as a top shuttler in the country. The pair scripted history in 2011 at the World Championships where they won a bronze medal at the Wembley Arena. The medal ended a 28 year World Championship medal draught for India.
2012 was special as she participated in her first Olympic Games. They missed out on the quarterfinal berth by just one point. The duo put up a strong performance in their group stage beating higher ranked pair from Chinese Taipei. Post the Olympics Jwala took a sabbatical from the game. Ponnappa partnered Pradnya Gadre for a brief period before re uniting with Gutta later in 2013.
In Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games, the duo won a silver medal and a bronze at the Badminton Asia Championships in 2014. The sizzling duo has played a crucial role in the bronze medals India won in 2014 and 2016 Uber Cups.
In 2015, Ashwini and Jwala won the Canada Open. It was a major title win for the pair since their participation in London 2012.They became the only women’s doubles pair from India to win a Grand Prix Title. They broke into the top 10 of the world ranking the same year.
Rio 2016 and adieu to a successful partnership
Ashwini Ponnappa had another big moment when she represented India at the Olympics yet again in 2016. She participated in the Women’s doubles category with Jwala Gutta. The pair crashed out of medal contention after losing their second successive match in their group stage. Her partner and mentor Jwala took a break from international badminton post 2016 and there came an end to a fruitful partnership.
The ace shuttler paired up with left-handed Sikki Reddy, a match made by Coach Tan Kim Her. She also suffered from Dengue post Rio and it took her almost a year and a half to get back in form. Then came a recurring calf injury. The doubles specialist has struggled with injuries post Rio and has affected her chances for qualifying for Tokyo Olympics.With Sikki she won a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, 2018. In the bronze medal match they beat the Australian pair of Setyana Mapasa and Gronya Somerville.
Current form and Race to Tokyo
In 2012, the government of India honoured the doubles specialist with the Arjuna Award. The lockdown dude to the Coronavirus outbreak was utilized by the ace shuttler to recover from injuries and get stronger. She has resumed training in Bengaluru at the Prakash Padukone Badminton academy. With Sikki Reddy she is ranked 28 in the world and on the Race to Tokyo. In the mixed doubles category, she ranks 35 in the world and 31 in the race to Tokyo rankings. Only the top eight pairs get a direct qualification to Tokyo 2021. Ponnappa has an uphill talk to qualify for the quadrennial sporting extravaganza.
Ponnappa is an ardent animal lover and animal rights activist. She loves reading books, watching movies and listening to music.