Games & medals
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Ashwini PONNAPPA biography
Introduced to badminton by her mother when she was just two-and-a-half years old, Ashwini Ponnappa, by her own admission, was too young to remember how her passion for the sport exactly took root.
Known for her thunderous smashes and gritty displays on the court, she holds the distinction of being one of the first Indian women shuttlers to win a gold medal in the doubles category at the World Badminton Championships.
The doubles specialist boasts of an impressive medal collection, with two golds, two silvers and a bronze from the Commonwealth Games and four South Asian Games gold medals, resting alongside many other accolades.
Ashwini Ponnappa hails from a family of rich sporting lineage. Her father played hockey for India while her uncle was a state-level cricketer for Karnataka. By the time she turned eight, Ashwini Ponnappa had enrolled at an academy, marking the beginning of a special journey into professional badminton.
It wasn’t long before the Bangalore-born shuttler began making a name for herself at the national level and following a quick ascent, Ashwini Ponnappa stamped her presence on the international stage with golds in mixed doubles at the 2010 South Asian Games in Dhaka.
However, it was later in the year after she teamed up with Jwala Gutta, who proved to be the perfect partner for the Bengaluru player’s style, that things truly started to lift off. The duo clinched gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, a first for India in the women’s doubles category, instantly establishing themselves as household names in the country.
More success followed as the two became the first women’s pair to clinch a medal on bagging bronze at the World Badminton Championships in 2011. At a time when Saina Nehwal was the toast of the nation on the singles circuit, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta became India’s torchbearers in the doubles arena.
Leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London, much was expected from the duo. Drawn in Group B, the two faltered in their first match against the Japanese team of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa. Brushing the disappointment aside, the Indian pair returned with back-to-back victories against Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Wen-hsing and Chien Yu-chin and Singapore’s Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei.
However, the spirited comeback was not enough for the Indian pair as they missed out on a place in the quarter-finals on a technicality.
Tied on points and games won-lost with the fourth seeds Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa of Japan, the Indians had to make way for eventual silver medallists based on the difference between points scored and conceded during matches. An area where the Indian duo, unfortunately, missed out by a single point.
Following the heartbreak in London, Ponnappa and Gutta won silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The duo also played a key part in India’s Uber Cup bronze medals in 2014 and 2016, intersected by a landmark 2015 Canada Open Grand Prix title.
Rio 2016 was not a successful Olympic campaign for Ashwini Ponnappa. Having just recovered from dengue, the shuttler was far from her best and the Indian pair ended the campaign without a win under their belt, marking the end of a fruitful partnership.
Having teamed with N Sikki Reddy since, Ashwini Ponnappa won bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games women’s doubles event, but recurring injuries and ailments have hampered the progression of the partnership.
Constant disruptions, including another bout with illness in 2018 hindered Ashwini Ponnappa’s rhythm and culminated in a below-par 2019 season which left her playing catch up for a slot at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 2012 Arjuna Awardee is married to her long-time boyfriend Karan Medappa, who is a businessman and a model. She lives in Bengaluru with her husband and two dogs.