By Mayank Jain:
We remember her as the player who broke records and gave India a medal almost everywhere she represented the country. We know her as Jwala Gutta’s equally fearsome partner, and remember the time when their duo bagged gold in 2010 Commonwealth Games. Numerous awards, honours and trophies in her closet have only fuelled her fire to do more and do it better.
Being a hyperactive kid in her childhood, her mother gave her the badminton racket to blow off her extra energy and that’s how she started connecting the shuttles with her racket. An early riser in the game, Ashwini began practicing at a tender age of just eight and she won her first major championship long back in 2001.
Ashwini is an inspiration for us, an embodiment of never-say-never spirit. She stands tall as one of the best badminton players of India (and perhaps, Asia). Her story has a lot to teach us about chasing our dreams and fighting the odds to do what you love in a country obsessed with a single game. We talked to her about life, badminton and her beginning in this ‘smashing’ game:
Being one of India’s top seeded players, you need no introduction. Please tell us about your background and beginning with badminton.
I started playing badminton at the age of 8. And started playing tournaments from the under 10 category.
In India, nothing sells like Cricket. But, Jwala Gutta and you, introduced us to the smashing game of badminton. Do you think badminton has gained popularity over these years as a professional sport?
Yes, I do feel the game has gained popularity over the last couple of years. Which is good for the sport and is also helping the players to do well.
Unfortunately, yes. The last one year has been a little rigorous and I’ve had injuries which have made me skip tournaments and not give my best in a few.
Your partnership with Jwala Gutta is well known and respected all over the world but there must have been a beginning. What was the turning point of your career?
The turning point for me personally was partnering with Jwala in 2009. I was really lucky to have had her ask me to partner her. It gave me a chance to see what I was capable of. Ever since I started playing with Jwala I knew that I could do really well in the international circuit as I was playing with someone who was very experienced, confident and someone who believed she could do really well just as I did. It’s pretty important in doubles that both partners believe in their partnership and capability.
You made a world record of fastest smash in Paris World Championship in 2010. How did it feel? Do you feel you have achieved enough in life so far?
I’ve always known I had a good smash. When I heard that I had hit one of the hardest smashes, it was hard to believe, still is. I haven’t really seen it anywhere for myself; I have just heard people tell me.
Not at all, I feel I’ve got a long way to go and still got a lot to achieve.
Please give us a sneak peek into your life as a young Indian girl. What are the other things you enjoy apart from playing Badminton?
One of things I enjoy most apart from playing badminton is spending time with my family and friends. I long going out when I’m back home and have time. Apart from that, I love listening to music, reading books and watching movies.
Indian women are having a hard time these days due to crimes and male dominance. Have you faced any such hardships or opposition in your career? What is your message to the Indian women out there?
No, I haven’t faced anything like that in my career. My message to them would be to be strong and believe in yourselves. Anything is possible once you put your mind to it.
To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029