Guts, gumption, glory

With an Olympic bronze medal in her kitty, Saina says she wants to capture gold in Rio 2016

Saina Nehwal etched her name in history by winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics. AP

Saina Nehwal, the queen of Indian badminton, added more gloss to her career by embellishing a bronze medal at the London Olympics. The 22-year-old, with a mixture of good fortune, discipline, dedication and determination, doused the Dragon power to become the first Indian shuttler to stand on the podium of the quadrennial bash. While accolades have been pouring in since her return, Saina took some time to have a chat with Deccan Herald where she spoke about variety of topics, including her struggles, glorious moments and future plans.

Excerpts

Tell us about your experience of winning an Olympic medal.

It’s really wonderful and of course it is sweeter than any other medal. To me, it’s a big big achievement. It’s a very big thing for India and also for the badminton in the country. It gives me a lot of motivation and confidence to do well in the coming years.

What immediate change has this bronze medal brought to your life?

The bronze medal changed a lot of things in my life. After this, more people have started recognising me. I have become like a legend (she laughs). It’s wonderful to win an Olympic medal. I feel great for the love and affection from the people. Life has become sweeter now. It’s a dream of every player to win an Olympic medal and I am also one of them. Now, I have something to show for my hardwork. I will work harder and try harder and give my best effort to win more laurels to the country.

When you play well, more people will notice and you win more fans, so obviously, the expectations will be higher. But I am used to it now and enjoy every moment of it. I learned to handle the pressure of expectations.

Describe your journey towards Olympic success?

In 13 years I have had to struggle a lot. I owe my success to my parents and my coach (Gopi sir). I used to train nine hours every day. But I was disappointed when I lost in Beijing. That day I made a promise to myself to win an Olympic medal. When I started playing, I used to get up at 4.30 am and after practice I would go to school and then from 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm I would return for practice. There was hardly any time to enjoy myself.

My father used to lend money from his friends and take loans for helping me to compete in tournaments. My mom told me when I was nine years old that she wanted me to win an Olympic medal. She was the happiest person when I won the medal in London. I am satisfied because I could achieve what they wanted.

How did you celebrate your Olympic medal?

We had a small dinner in the room (in London) and I ate pizzas and pasta after a long time. After returning home from London, I had a small party with my family, sister, niece and parents. Of course, I had ice creams too after a long time. Apart from having my favourite dishes, especially aloo parathas.

Were you able to meet your idols in London?

I stayed in a hotel, because the venue was far from the Games Village, so I couldn’t meet Roger Federer and Usain Bolt.

You played in the Beijing 2008. Did you notice any difference in London?

Both London and Beijing Games were really good. The only difference was that, in Beijing I lost, but in London I won a medal. Both events were very well organised and I enjoyed every moment of it.

You have won several Super Series titles where the level of competition is equivalent to Olympics, isn’t it?

I rate Super Series successes highly, but then Olympics comes only once in four years and it is the pinnacle of sports. So any medal in Olympics will give you an ultimate joy.

Are you really thinking about playing in Rio 2016 Olympics?

I just wanted to do well in the coming tournaments, of course four years is too far. My aim is to stay fit and hope that I can play and win a gold in Rio 2016.

When are you planning to return to competitions?

I am yet to start my training, I don’t know when I’ll start my training but I will start as soon as possible and hope to play in Japan Super Series next month (September 18-23 in Tokyo).

Any plans to settle down in life...

I want to play for some more years. Then only will I decide about settling down in my life. Anyway, I want to settle down one day. For the time being, I am only thinking about playing badminton and I wanted to compete in Rio.

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