Bronze spells gold for Mary, Saina

Indias Olympic medallists promise to do better in future as accolades continue to pour in

A sense of relief and satisfaction was palpable on Saina Nehwal’s face as she posed for lensmen with a broad smile and replied each question with confidence. Two weeks after her Olympic bronze medal success, accolades have continued to pour in and the badminton ace seemed to be enjoying every bit of it.

“When I stood on the podium, I was very emotional. I recollected all the hard work and the sacrifices that I made over the years,” said Saina who was here on Wednesday for a function along with boxing bronze medallist Mary Kom.

Four years ago, after her heart-breaking loss at the Beijing Games, when the same sponsor -- Herbalife -- honoured her, Saina struggled to hide her tears. In contrast, she was a picture of joy on Wednesday, even gently chiding Mary for saying she really wanted the gold.

“Mary don’t worry about big medal. A medal is a medal. It’s really tough to be there,” she said. “Lot of people will be inspired by my medal. I believe more youngsters will take up the sport after seeing all these honours and felicitations.”

Saina is one of the few players to challenge the might of Chinese, and the Hyderabadi said she hoped to continue the good show against them in the future. “Of course they have so many champion badminton players in China, and it is not easy playing against them. I’m trying my best, and I hope to get stronger physically and mentally. I hope to give them a good fight in the future as well, like I’m doing now.” Saina also said she will now pick and choose tournaments in order to stay fit for the Rio 2016 Olympics. “I play a maximum of 12 or 13 tournaments in a year, so I will try and maintain my fitness. The Chinese are getting better, so I need to get stronger and fitter to play against them,” Saina pointed out.

The world number four advised the youngsters to believe in themselves. “If I can do it, you all can also do it and get medals for India. It is very important to believe in yourself, be confident and set a target for yourself. We have a lot of engineers and doctors, but I think there should be many more sportpersons who come forward and do well for India,” Saina said.

With her becoming an icon now, will Saina take up a Bollywood offer? “We’ll think about it later, right now I’m at the peak of my (badminton) career. It is a different field altogether, I just want to focus on badminton. People know me as a badminton player and I don’t want to change my profession. I’m happy with what I’m doing,” said the Commonwealth Games gold medallist.

Saina said she is likely to return to action at next month’s Japan Open. “I’ve taken enough breaks now. The last two or three weeks there have been many functions. I’m so happy that the whole country is celebrating our medal. Now I have to get back to work and be ready for the Japan Open.”

Saina and Mary received Rs five lakh each from Herbalife country head Ajay Khanna.

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