A year of happy surprises for Ashmita

The 19-year-old from Assam shocked everyone by fighting her way into the Asian Games team and is now looking at bigger goals.

Ashmita is one of the big beneficiaries of the Badminton Association of India’s new selection policy which rewards current form.   -  Thulasi Kakkat

Ashmita Chaliha was a picture of disappointment late last year after losing in the quarterfinals of the Junior Nationals at home in Guwahati. But, this year has been a joyful one, full of happy surprises.

The 19-year-old from Assam shocked everyone by fighting her way into the Asian Games team and is now looking at bigger goals.

Ashmita is one of the big beneficiaries of the Badminton Association of India’s new selection policy which rewards current form. Rather than considering year-long national rankings, the BAI introduced two selection tournaments this year to fill up the minor berths in the Indian team and Ashmita did very well, reaching the semifinal in the Bengaluru all-India event and then, winning in Hyderabad to seal her Asian Games berth.

“I didn’t think of stepping into the senior team because this is my first year as a senior. So, it was all a big surprise,” said Ashmita.

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INDONESIAN FACTOR

The change in her game and mindset happened after Indonesian coach Edwin Iriawan joined the Assam Badminton Academy, where she trains.

“My game changed after his arrival. Before, I used to play rallies and drops and all that, now I’m more of an attacking player. All the changes happened in the last six months,” explained Ashmita, a lefthander, who has played the Junior Worlds and Junior Asians, earlier.

With stars like Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu in the Asiad team, Ashmita did not get to play a single game in Jakarta. And, troubled by an ankle injury, she did not get to train much too. But, she had a lot to learn and soak in the experience.

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Now, with the Asiad experience making her stronger, Ashmita appears ready to play her first international event.   -  Thulasi Kakkat

 

SAINA, HER JAKARTA ROOMMATE

“Saina was my roommate in Jakarta, so I learned a lot from her, she also gave me a few ideas and also advised me about my food habits. She is very focused,” said Ashmita.

Now, with the Asiad experience making her stronger, Ashmita appears ready to play her first international event.

“Next month, I will be going for the Dubai International Challenge… that will be the first senior international event I’d be playing. I want to go to the Olympics and get into the world’s top five one day,” she said.

Ashmita’s dad, a businessman, was a decent tennis player and he wanted his daughter to be one too.

“But, the tennis stadium was too far away, some 15kms from our house. And, there was a badminton academy just 700m away…that’s how I started playing badminton at six.”

She is very happy things happened that way.