KOCHI: Lauhs and giggles. If you wrap a gold medal around a young sportsperson’s neck, then chances are that you will be greeted with such spontaneous reactions. A Pillai household in Stockholm is in such a celebratory mood. Young shuttler Ashwathi, daughter of expatriates Vinod and Gayathri Pillai, won gold for Sweden at this Youth Olympics, in Buenos Aires.In the process, she became the first Indian to win a medal for Sweden in Youth Olympics. The nation won six medals in all.
“It was a new and amazing experience. Being in the Games village and being around athletes from around the world, it was amazing. It was something that I had never experienced before. Winning a medal was the cherry on top,” Ashwathi told Express from Sweden.The young shuttler returned to Sweden after bagging gold in the mixed team relay event, a completely new format. The Youth Olympics is the first international competition to feature it. The event has eight teams, with each formed according to player rankings.
“It was a new experience for all of us. I think it is an interesting format, and it should become a hit. It is a great way to build friendship between sportspeople from across the world.”Ashwathi was part of team Alpha, which also comprised of India’s Lakshya Sen, who won silver in the men’s singles at the Games. Alpha beat Omega to take gold.
The 18-year-old is now gearing up for the World Junior Badminton Championship, which will be held in Ontario in November. Though Ashwathi represents Sweden, she continues to nurture and preserve her Indian roots. Originally from Thucklay, which is about 50kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, she moved to Sweden with her family when she was nine years old.
“I am from Kerala. My parents are from there. I am into Bollywood. We eat Indian food at home and I speak many Indian languages. I always carry the cultural values that my parents have instilled in me, and India will always be a part of me.” Ashwathi has attracted a lot of media attention after her gold-winning performance at the Youth Games. Even more so since she is already being considered as one of the best badminton players in Sweden at the moment.
However, her father Vinod wants her to be grounded. “We make sure that she stays grounded. We keep reminding her that all these achievements and accolades are coming because of the sport. Everything else is secondary.” For now, the talented youngster can enjoy her achievement.