Ashwini Ponnappa sets sights on Olympics

Ponnappa and Tanisha Crasto secured their third women’s doubles title in the final of the Guwahati Masters last Sunday (10)

Ashwini Ponnappa

Eastern Eye

A SENSATIONAL run over the last two weeks has given wings to Ashwini Ponnappa’s Olympics dreams, and the ace Indian shuttler now wants to continue her fine run in the upcoming bigger tournaments to stay on course for a trip to Paris next year.

Ponnappa, 34, and 20-year-old Tanisha Crasto, who teamed up in January this year, secured their third women’s doubles title and the second Super 100 crown with a 21-13, 21-19 win over Chinese Taipei’s Sung Shuo Yun and Yu Chien Hui in the final of the Guwahati Masters last Sunday (10).

The pair had finished runners-up at the Syed Modi International Super 300 tournament two weeks ago in Lucknow, and start as favourites on Tuesday (12) at the Odisha Open Super 100 in Cuttack.

Their exploits in Guwahati will lift them to world No 23 when the BWF [Badminton World Federation] ranking is issued on Tuesday as Eastern Eye went to press, taking them closer to the top 16, which is the cut-off mark for the Paris Games.

“The goal ,of course, is to play at the Olympics. But since we are a new pair, our focus is to do well in every single tournament we are playing, to put up a good show and that is what we are focusing on right now,” Ponnappa, a two-time Olympian, said.

“I think there are a lot of factors to get to the Olympics. For us, it is important to simplify our journey and focus on our performance, and if we are meant to be in the Olympics, then it’s fine.”

Ponnappa and Crasto won the Abu Dhabi Masters Super 100 and Nantes International Challenge also this year. “Now, we will get an entry in to bigger tournaments. We actually started off the year playing in a Super 500 event (Indonesia Masters) where we reached the quarterfinals. That gave us a lot of confidence because it was our first tournament together,” Ponnappa said.

“Now, having had this journey of playing smaller tournaments and gradually working our way up, it gives us a lot of confidence.

We have a lot of matches under our belt. So, now, the idea is to take all this positivity into next year but before that our focus is giving our best in Odisha.” One of India’s finest doubles exponents, Ponnappa has enjoyed success with Jwala Gutta, winning the 2011 World Championships bronze and gold and silver medals at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games, respectively.

The pair also participated in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in London and Rio de Janeiro but couldn’t cross the group stage on both occasions.