By Bharat Sharma
Ashwini Ponappa, the badminton ace is one among the five shuttlers carrying India’s medal hopes at the Olympics, this year. We find out her success mantra and fitness regime.
Comfort-wise, is it better to play in front of a home crowd or in the international arena?
Playing in front of the home the crowd is always special. The crowd really pushes you up when you are struggling. I come from the Southern India, but I love playing in Delhi. The courts there are the best in the country and a sizeable crowd turns up to watch the game.
How do you prepare yourself mentally before a big game?
Preparation is same for all the matches. I make sure I do my warm-up exercises and stretching properly. When I am tense before a match, I put my I Pod on.
London Olympics - what are the expectations you have set for yourself?
It is going to be my first Olympics and the aim is to win a medal. My doubles partner Jwala Gutta and I have a realistic chance of a podium finish. The draw is going to be easier than what we get on the professional circuit as there is a limit to the players who can participate from a country. Though our recent results have not been great, we are working very hard and spending more time on the court to give ourselves a good chance in London.
How do you keep yourself fit for your sport?
I have a pretty simple routine. I spend three hours in the gym daily and eat healthy. I come from Coorg where you tend to eat a lot of fried non-vegetarian stuff, but I mostly stay away from it. Whenever I get time off badminton, I tell my mom to make my favourite curd rice.
India is a cricket country; do you think your sport is underrated?
Well, unfortunately no sport in our country can be compared to cricket. Players like Saina Nehwal and Pullela Gopichand have helped our sport's popularity but there is still a long way to go. The survival is even harder for doubles players like me. Singles players get more money and attention in India. There is nothing wrong with that but a lot of parents still don't want their kids to take up doubles. Jwala and I won the bronze at World Championships last year but not many people are aware of it. However, we did great reception after winning the gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Tell us about a memory that is etched in your mind that proves to you that you cannot do without mom.
Normally a daughter is more attached to her father, but it is opposite in my case. I am what I am because of my mom's unconditional support. I can't imagine a time when I can do without her. All those times when I was low and upset, she was there.
What is the message you would like to give your mom?
She will be in London to see me playing so I have not really thought what I would say to her before leaving. In fact, my father and younger brother would also be there.
How has mom been an influence in your life, professionally and personally?
As I have said earlier, my mom has been the biggest influence in my life. Ever since I was a child, she has been there for me. From waiting for my practice to get over at the youth centre in Bangalore to juggling her work hours to ensure my playing routine is not affected. Even after I moved to Hyderabad to train further, she has ensured that I don't feel home sick. She has truly been an inspiration.
By Bharat Sharma
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