Ashwini Ponnappa is the new pin-up girl of badminton! The 22-year-old shuttler, who scores high in the looks department too, is happy to be amongst the select few who have raised the benchmark in this particular sport. Excerpts from an interview:
The China trip may not have been too good for you but you recently won the bronze in the doubles category at the World Championships – a feat that has come home to India after long years…
Yeah, it’s awesome, the feeling, the emotion that we have done something like this makes you feel great!
You have been rewriting history time and again… starting with the Commonwealth Games gold medal… is it a conscious effort?
No, it’s not like that. I don’t go to the court thinking I am here to make history tonight. Neither Jwala nor I think that way. We just prepare for the event and give it our best shot, that’s what we have been doing. And when we do that, the results are amazing.
But when you have these ‘wow’ moments, do you cry?
I haven’t cried yet. I possibly can’t explain the exact feeling when you stand up on that dais and the camera zooms onto your country’s flag because you have won a medal, it just makes you feel so proud. But yeah, maybe I am saving tears for the Olympics.
Saina Nehwal is no longer the lone face of badminton. You are suddenly the big thing in this sport…
Yes. In fact, there are three of us now – Saina, Jwala and I. It’s good that more players are appreciated. It is better to have more than just one face associated with badminton.
So, do you think you have finally got your due?
No, not really.
What makes you say that?
Well, that’s because I am a doubles player. After we returned from the World Championships, there was hardly any appreciation or recognition. If it was any other player winning a singles’ match, there would be a lot of hoi halla. That’s what was missing.
But you do agree that you are one of the faces of badminton now?
Yes, to that I do agree. What I meant to say is that I would have got more attention if I was a singles’ player.
So, the attention that you are getting now – do your good looks have anything to do with it?
Not quite. I don’t think I get attention because I am pretty. If I didn’t play well, nobody would bother. I mean, if you say I am pretty, I must have been looking pretty all these years, right? In that case, I should have got attention long back. So, you see, it has got nothing to do with my good looks.
But you do make a style statement…
Many people have told me this and I feel completely flattered. I mean I don’t make an attempt to make a style statement or look good, I think it comes naturally to me. My Mom is also a good designer. She designs for me sometimes. So, maybe that’s how I have a sense of fashion.
Back to badminton – are there camps in the badminton circuit?
Umh…yes, there are.
Between the singles and the doubles players. I am close to the doubles players.
You were a singles’ player earlier. Do you regret being in the doubles now?
Initially, I did feel awkward because I wanted to be a singles player but I am happy now because doubles has actually given me recognition. True that there is more noise about singles players but I don’t have any regrets. Later, I will get back to singles.
You were very open about the skirt issue… you didn’t mind the fact that female shuttlers had to wear skirts. You are not quite a feminist, right?
In this case, I am not. If skirts were being made mandatory, it was for a reason. It just had to be optional, that’s it. I mean there is nothing wrong in wearing a skirt. I am a woman after all and if I am comfortable with it, which should be fine. All those sexist notions that were being attached to the ‘skirting’ issue were all so lame!