Tashvi Parab will never forget her family’s trip to the Yonex All England Open back in March 2015. The 15-year-old, from Oldbrook, Milton Keynes, grew up as an avid tennis player but embarked on a visit to Birmingham five years ago that would change her life forever.
Taken by her dad, Prashant, a 10-year-old Tashvi watched the likes of Saina Nehwal, Tai Tzu-ying and Carolina Marin sparkle under the Arena Birmingham lights, igniting her passion for badminton that still burns as brightly as ever today.
Tashvi has gone on to be crowned both Under-11s and Under-13s national champion but credits that trip to the Midlands as a watershed moment in her development.
“I grew up playing tennis but went to the Yonex All England Open when I first turned 10 and that was what first inspired me to play badminton,” said Tashvi – who is currently being supported by the Thompson Trust through SportsAid.
“It was my parents who took me to the Yonex All England - my dad loved badminton, and we went there for fun. But it ended up being the biggest turning point in my life.
“Tennis wasn’t really going that great for me and I was getting a bit bored of the sport, so going to the Yonex All England was definitely a big turning point because I loved watching it.
“Saina Nehwal was the one who caught my eye the most. She was an idol for me when I first started playing badminton, and she’s probably one of the biggest reasons I got into badminton.
“Since then, badminton’s been a really big part of my life, and I’ve loved every moment of it.”
Tashvi then embarked on an inexorable badminton rise, scooping the country’s most prestigious gong at Under-11s level before replicating the feat in Under-13s company.
And her short career has already seen her travel the continent playing the sport she loves, competing in Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands as she fulfils her sporting dream.
Prashant’s influence has been fundamental in her journey and his meticulous analysis, coupled with coach Manny Tripp’s, has accelerated Tashvi’s development.
“I’ve always been a very competitive person and winning is always the best,” she added. “That’s why I keep playing, because it’s an amazing feeling.
“My parents have made sport and education very balanced, but badminton has had a massive impact on my life. It’s taught me discipline, hard work and has given me the winning mentality that I have now.
“My dad isn’t particularly a badminton player but he’s a very good analyst and he’s always been there for me, and analysed my games and given me honest feedback.
“He’s definitely been a very big part of my journey, alongside my coaches, Manny, and all my England coaches as well. My dad travels a lot and my mum also takes me to tournaments - they’ve both been a very big part of my journey and I’m very thankful for it.”
Tashvi also scooped second at the Under-15s National Championships, unable to complete a thrilling hat-trick but knowing that the pain of defeat will make the next tastes of victory all the more sweet.
Away from her sport, Tashvi is entering Year 11 at Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, where she excels in PE, Biology and English as she heads into her main GCSE year.
Tashvi’s toying with the idea of a career in sports physiotherapy - when she one day hangs up her racket - and is acutely aware of the importance of broadening her horizons as a young sportsperson paving her way.
“Sport’s always been a big part of my life and sports physiotherapy is something I want to get into once badminton’s over for me,” she said. “I’m trying to balance them both out as much as I can because they’re both equally important.
“I definitely want to go to a university with a good sports physiotherapy course, but I haven’t really looked into it that much yet.
“I’m enjoying PE and biology - the sciences and English are probably my favourite subjects. Balancing training and schoolwork has been a struggle sometimes, but I always get there in the end.
“It’s always good to have other passions - sports physiotherapy has always been something I wanted to do. I’m good at the subjects I need for that, which is definitely a boost.”
What comes next for Tashvi? The sporting calendar remains uncertain but the European Championships are scheduled for next year, as the teenager vies for international success to supplement her already-proven domestic hegemony.
And what about the long-term? Tokyo and Paris may be too soon but despite still being 15, a tilt at Olympic glory is firmly at the back of her mind.
“There are the European Championships next year which I’m definitely planning on getting selected for,” she said. “That will be a big stepping stone for achieving the long-term goal of the Olympics and representing Great Britain. That has always been a long-term goal for me.”
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