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Ashwini Ponnappa: A badminton legend defying boundaries with every swing

"Not doing fancy training just for Instagram": Badminton Prodigy Ashwini Ponnappa on her Journey of Fitness, Mastery & Motivation 

When it comes to the world of badminton, there are only a few who can match feats that Ashwini Ponnappa has showcased to the world. Her journey that began in 2001 has been nothing short of magical. In 2010, she made history after winning a gold medal at the 19th Commonwealth Games in Women’s Doubles alongside Jwala Gutta.

However, there is much more to Ashwini than her on-court mastery. We at Sportskeeda recently got a chance to talk to her and explore the more holistic side of her life. Join us as we explore how India’s most celebrated badminton prodigy maintains a healthy lifestyle that propels her forward, both physically and mentally.

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A look inside the winning mindset of Ashwini Ponnappa, India's most celebrated badminton star

Q. First and foremost, thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

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As an icebreaker, could you please tell us about what got you into badminton in the first place, and gave our country the legend we know today as Ashwini?

My parents put me into the sport when I was 8-and-a-half years old. That’s when I started going for coaching. I fell in love with the sport and fortunately did well enough to have been able to pursue it full-time.

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Q. You've had an incredible career in the world of badminton so far. Would you mind sharing a few highlights and accolades that are a bit closer to your heart than others?

The defining moment of my career is definitely the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Winning the World Championship’s bronze medal in 2011, which was the first for India after a 28-year gap, is second. The Asian Games’ team bronze in 2014 and the 2018 Commonwealth Games’ team gold are very close to my heart as well.

In the frame, Ashwini Ponnappa (Image via Red bull)
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Q. For anyone playing at an international level like yourself, a solid fitness regime is key. How does your day look both during on-season when you need to be at your peak, and off-season when you can be a bit more relaxed?

We don’t have an off-season as we have got a packed all-year calendar. It’s very important for us to be mindful of our training load and keep it at a pace that will help us stay fit and ready before tournaments, and also train during them in order to maintain our fitness levels.

Load management is key for us, knowing when to push and when to back off. Thankfully our coaches take care of that, so all we need to do is follow them.


Q. What does your everyday diet look like? Do you have a favourite meal that you look forward to after a strenuous day of training and workouts?

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I follow a very basic diet, nothing special. I make sure to eat as healthy as possible and eat different things in moderation. For strenuous days, I have my Red Bull can that gives me the extra energy and mental push needed to give my best. I also make sure to hydrate a lot during intense training sessions.

Ashwini during a training session at the gym (Image via Red bull)
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Q. Every sport requires a different approach to training. When it comes to badminton, what kind of a physical regime would someone aspiring to make it big on the court need, and what has worked the best for you?

Over the years, my physical training has become very tailor-made to me. It depends on what my body needs, on how it feels on a given day, and also on the areas I feel lacks on the court. I address these during my physical training sessions. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I have been able to play for a long time.

My aim is to protect and give my body what it needs in order to give my best on the court. For someone aspiring to make it big, the key thing here is to do what’s needed for their body and not doing fancy training just for Instagram. The main aim is to get strong enough to give their best on the court.

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Ashwini's latest gold medal was at Nantes International held in France in 2023

Q. Being an international athlete, do you feel the need to work out every day, some sessions lighter than others, or do you split your week with equal days off? What method of recovery would you say works best for you?

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I work out with Deckline Leitao. He’s an expert in sports science and conditioning. My training is very different from a lot of athletes, a moderate load that I can train every day. There’s no specific off days. We go by how my body is on a given day and accordingly decide the load.


Q. Your quintessential journey as a Red Bull Athlete has been long and eventful. What would you say is the best part about this collaboration? Any words of motivation for budding talents who’re looking for opportunities like this?

The best part of the collaboration for me is that I get to do cool projects with them, interact with top athletes across the globe, and also get access to their world-class sports science training facility.

For budding talents, it’s important to be authentic and perform well. I drink a Red Bull can for an energy boost when I need it, it’s not just cause I’m a Red Bull athlete. That, I guess, is the core of being a Red Bull athlete.

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Q. Finally, while you serve as motivation for thousands of people around the globe, who would you say is the biggest source of your motivation?

My biggest source of motivation has been my family. They’re my biggest supporters and motivation-givers when I’m low. I also love looking at other athletes and the people around me, and learning from their experiences and taking motivation from their journey.

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Edited by
Aditya
 
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