The sudden lockdown across the world, caused by the coronavirus outbreak, has worked out well for veteran Indian badminton player Ashwini Ponnappa who has used this time to regain her peak fitness.
The 30-year-old doubles specialist has struggled with injuries over the past year that affected her qualification chances at the Tokyo Olympics.
In the 20 tournaments that she competed in last year, Ashwini Ponnappa was stopped at the first hurdle on 13 occasions. Her only highlights have been reaching the Hyderabad Open and the Maldives International Challenge final alongside N Sikki Reddy.
However, a physically rejuvenated Ashwini Ponnappa is now ready to get the job done.
“I am not nervous. I am looking forward to it [Olympic qualification tournaments],” Ashwini Ponnappa told the Rediff website. “I believe when you are physically fit, then you are automatically mentally strong too.
“After this forced break, I am enthusiastic to get back to badminton,” she added.
Climbing up the Race to Tokyo - BWF Olympic Qualification rankings table, however, is going to be an uphill task for the Bengaluru shuttler.
Ashwini Ponnappa currently sits 28th in the women’s doubles category alongside N Sikki Reddy and 31st in the mixed doubles category alongside Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, with only the top eight pairs getting a direct qualification.
Injuries playing spoilsport
The women’s doubles duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had a promising 2012 Olympics campaign, where they missed out on the quarter-final berth by a difference of just one point.
However, India could not replicate it at the 2016 Olympics and Ashwini Ponnappa’s career has been injury-plagued ever since.
“After the Rio Olympics, I had dengue and it took me almost one-and-a-half years to get back,” Ashwini Ponnappa said.
“Repercussions were a lot. I had a cold or fever. I did not feel fine. It was quite a challenge to get back. Then, last year I had this recurring calf injury [during Syed Modi International],” she pointed out.
Getting injured in the year building up to the Games was a blow for Ashwini Ponnappa as she started 2020 with just one win in the first three months.
However, with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) suspending all tournaments following the coronavirus outbreak, Ashwini Ponnappa awaits the revamped qualification criteria with an eye on the Tokyo Games.