Ashwini Ponnappa has been one of India’s star badminton players for many years.
Since making history by winning gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, she has been India’s most consistent women’s doubles player, setting the stage for other players to follow in her footsteps.
She also champions Red Bull Shuttle Up, the only dedicated women’s doubles badminton tournament in India. She hopes more women take up the sport and follow in her footsteps to greatness and glory.
In anticipation of questions ahead of the qualifiers of Red Bull Shuttle Up 2021, Ashwini decided to do an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on social media for aspiring badminton players and fans to quiz her on her life and career.
Here are her responses to some of those questions.
How old were you when you first played badminton?
So according to my mum, I first held a racquet when I was about two-and-a-half years old and attended my first camp when I was six years old. It was a summer camp at YMCA.
Have you ever been star struck by someone you met?
I was star struck when I met Bao Chunlai in 2013 and it was pretty amazing when I got to play with him on the same day.
How many hours do you train for an upcoming tournament?
So before a tournament, my training in general would be about five hours a day, with two sessions four days a week and one session twice a week. And Sundays are off.
How do you stay badminton fit when at home?
(When I can’t go to the gym) I stay fit at home by doing some wall practice with hex balls, some throws with another soft ball, breathing exercises with my Dhyana app, and some exercises using the loop band and the theraband.
How do you spend your day off?
On my day off, I would normally just relax at home, listen to music, read books, and experiment with trying out a new recipe since I’m just learning to cook. Basically just unwind at home.
Do you remember the first match you won?
I don’t really remember the first match that I won, but I remember the first tournament I won. It was an under-13 state-ranking tournament in Bangalore.
If you were not a badminton player, what would you be?
If I wasn’t a badminton player, I guess would have still been in some sort of sport. I’m not too sure which; maybe athletics.
What is your favourite type exercise or workout routine?
Strength training more than endurance training. My exercise routine normally depends on what my body needs, so it changes every two months. As we travel a lot for tournaments, I need to adapt to how my body is once I’m back, and accordingly add or subtract exercises to get to where I want to be.
Which parts of your body or muscles are most important for badminton?
As there’s a lot of moving forward, backward, side-to-side, jumping, stopping and moving, badminton requires full body strength. You need your legs to be strong to take the load, arms to be strong to be able to hit and not get injured. Especially your shoulders and core strength for power and to be able to bend forward and move back.
Which has been your favourite tournament to play throughout your career?
I love the world championships. The feeling of playing there is always amazing. I love playing at the Indonesian Open too. The atmosphere at the stadium is buzzing with a lot of energy as there are so many badminton lovers in Indonesia.
What is your favourite food when you are on a sports diet?
My favourite food on a sports diet is sushi, I guess.
How do you keep yourself motivated to have a long and successful career?
Keep myself motivated by reading positive quotes. I am a huge fan of quotes and there’s a quote for almost everything. They keep me going.
What is your favourite badminton move or shot?
My favourite badminton shot is the smash, of course.
What is one piece of advice that you would want to pass on to aspiring women badminton players?
One piece of advice that I’ve received is to constantly learn and keep growing. I think that’s really important. So I’d say, always try to improve yourself and get better.
What is your favourite cheat meal?
I don’t really have a cheat meal as such because I eat plenty of cheat meals here and there. But I do believe if you want to eat something and it’s not the healthiest, do so in moderation and don’t go overboard.
What is your go-to exercise at the gym?
My go-to exercise at the gym is actually an exercise without equipment. It is single-leg eccentric squats which really help my knee and make me feel good after doing the workout.
Which is the most memorable women’s doubles match you’ve played so far?
I think in the recent years for me it would be my women’s doubles match in the 2017 Sudhirman Cup. I think my partner and I played really well in that match.
What would you say is that one crucial factor that can accelerate the growth of women’s doubles badminton in India?
Something that would help accelerate the standard of women’s doubles badminton in India is definitely giving our players a lot of doubles exposure, getting them to play more tournaments, and of course, giving them a good idea of how to play doubles.
What kind of a diet do you follow during tournaments?
During a tournament, the kind of diet I’d follow is to eat whatever is available; I’m not too finicky about what I eat. But I definitely try to get in loads of carbs before my matches start so I have energy to play my matches.
Who is your idol in women’s doubles badminton?
I’ve always been one to love watching all the players around me and to learn from them, but at present my women’s doubles icon is Greysia Polii. I think she is a fantastic player and I’ve learnt loads from her.
What advice would you give to the participants of Red Bull Shuttle Up?
To all the Red Bull Shuttle Up participants, I hope you enjoy yourselves. I hope you enjoy playing the matches and enjoy the atmosphere. I hope you make the most of the only women’s doubles tournament in India.
What sports do you follow other than badminton?
Other than badminton, the sports I love watching are tennis, football, extreme sports games. And I like watching a lot of sports documentaries too.
How do you deal with failure?
The best way to deal with failure is to learn from it and to bounce back stronger, to constantly keep working on yourself and to keep getting better.