Saina wants best-ever finish for India

Saina wants best-ever finish for India

Saina wants best-ever finish for India

Memories of a path-breaking 2010 Commonwealth Games gold are still fresh in her mind as Saina Nehwal embarks on a quest to regain the title at Gold Coast next month.

Eight summers ago, a 20-year-old Saina stood on the podium with the gold medal around her neck on the final day to not only become the first Indian woman to achieve the feat but also take the country to the second position ahead of England with a gold count of 38 in the overall medal's tally.

"India was second in overall medal tally in 2010. On the last day we were on 99 medals and Indian hockey (men) and badminton women's singles were left for last day. I won gold and in hockey we were runners up," recalled Saina.

"I felt so happy to be on the podium with the national tri-colour and I cannot forget it."

It has been an interesting journey for Saina ever since she was handed her debut at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in the team event as a 15-year-old by former India coach Vimal Kumar, who also later trained her for three years (2014-2017).

The Haryana-born shuttler shocked all and sundry and eventually beat New Zealand's Rebecca Bellingham 21-13, 24-22 to help India win a bronze in the mixed team event.

"2006 CWG Melbourne was my debut and we won bronze in team event where my role was also a major one as I won women's singles," Saina said.

"Of course, in 2014, I had a lot of injury issues, so I did not participate," she added, referring to the Glasgow edition where she pulled out after failing to recover from blisters and a groin injury sustained during the Australian Open Super Series.

With Saina skipping the Glasgow Games, P V Sindhu won a bronze even as Parupalli Kashyap broke a 32-year wait for a men's gold medal. RMV Gurusaidutt clinched a bronze and the women's doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta clinched the silver.

"Certainly we will be winners in most of the events, looking at our strength in all disciplines of team events as well as individual events in badminton," she said.

Saina, who won a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, had to endure a tough phase in 2014 when she even thought of quitting badminton due to a series of defeats.

Saina is in good shape now and along with Sindhu, an Olympic silver medallist, will start favourite to win the gold. They will face stiff challenge from defending champion Michelle Li of Canada and Scotland's Kristy Gilmour, who had won the silver at the Glasgow Games.

Saina said she wants to just focus on fitness and taking care of herself in the run-up to the Games.

"If you are fit, achievements will come your way. I got a lot of love from badminton, so I still feel I am a newcomer to the game. I take full care of my training, fitness, food and comfort," she says.

Since returning from the knee injury, Saina won the Malaysia Masters, a World Championship bronze and also beat Sindhu in the National championship finals last year.

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