During Olympics, we Indians have not been used to high expectations, certainly not keeping gold medal in our minds, unless ofcourse we are super optimists. We were of the opinion by the virtue of our own experiences that not many animals can fly. But, we knew for sure that birds can really fly. And so, we started to believe firmly that this time around, our expectations would surely turn into a reality.
You raised our hopes that much. As an eighteen year old girl you lost in the quarter finals at Beijing in 2008, after succumbing to defeat when you felt the pressure from a winnable situation. Since then, you had been doing so well, barring a minor blip in 2011.
Just as a pole-vaulter who raises the level of the bar in each attempt and succeeds every time to finally win a gold medal, you had been raising the level of your game, time and again in the last four years or so, which made us to rest our hopes totally on you to bring an Olympic gold medal for India.
Though we got a gold medal last time in Beijing, courtesy Abhinav Bhindra in Shooting, not many of us felt he would do so. The gold medal just came as a surprise to all of us. But in your case, we thought that the gold medal was just in our grasp. You had been playing so well and winning tournaments after tournaments, going into the ongoing Summer Olympics. So our level of expectations kept on raising day in and day out.
As a result, with a very positive note, we woke up yesterday morning thinking that you are going to do whatever it takes, assuring all of us a medal by making it to the badminton finals this week end. You had not lost a single game going into the semifinals and that doubled our hopes on you. By 14.30 hours IST, though, I was able to see a lot of girm faces, with mine being no different. Reading a scoreline 13-21 13-21, in favour of the Chinese dashed our hopes totally. We felt we were ripped off a well deserved gold medal, after all the hard work which we put in backing you totally. But it was not at all your fault. You gave your best, as you had been doing all these years to ensure that the tri colour national anthem is heard everywhere in the world.
A player, who is ranked World No.1 in any sport, is expected to defeat a player who is ranked No.4 in the world. We failed to recognize that you were going to face a Chinese girl who was ranked four places above you. So, only an upset could get you the title. Atleast , that is how we used to claim in sports when a top seed is dethroned by a lower ranked player. We were blind to the fact that the Chinese girl, Wang Yihan, who was your opponent yesterday, was ranked No.1 in the world, simply because our hopes on you were so high by that time.
Then when it came to facing reality, we felt we were deprived of something which was supposed to be ours. But, Saina, my dear, I know it was not the case. Now, after spending hours together in solitude, grieving about your loss yesterday to the No.1 player in the world, I understand the situation. I could empathise with you for not reaching the finals. Actually speaking, if you had been victorious it should have surprised us. It was wrong on our fault that we had some unrealistic expectations.
You are a great talent, no doubt, but you were pitted against three Chinese ladies in Badminton Semifinals who knew to play this sport better than anyone in the world. So, once you reached the last four stage we should have soothed ourselves saying whatever you were about to gain, even if was a bronze, was going to be a “gold dust” for us. But, we Indians, as avaricious as we were, having not seen gold medals more frequently, wanted desperately a gold medal from you. In the end, the most feared thing happened. You are now left to fight for bronze.
What if you are not going to be a gold medal candidate any more in London? This is not going to be the end of the road for you. You are just 22, if I am not mistaken. You will have more opportunities to get many more medals. You can still go to Rio De Janeiro and steal the gold medal from the Chinese Contingent. You are good enough to do it. Of all the players I have seen in various sports, I could see in your face the killer instinct to do well for your country. Your concentration is by far the best I have seen in any of the sportsmen who are into individual categories.
All I could advise you at this point of time is not to lose hope. You may still go on to win bronze medal in this Olympics. Fight for that. Play as if you are going to get a gold medal for India. Once you get that bronze, you will get confidence. The defeat you had yesterday will go off like a passing cloud in your career once you start tasting victories. There are many more tournaments in which you are going to participate and I am sure you will bring accolades to your nation in most of them.
It was just that the media created a sort of hype about winning gold medals at Olympics for India. Leave alone Olympics, whatever tournament you had played you have represented India. Winning gold medals in Olympics can be said as important to tennis players and it is not the same for badminton players as all tournaments which they play are equivalent to Olympics. In tennis, barring Davis Cup and Olympics, the players represent themselves and not their nation. But, it is not true in your case. Wherever you go and play in a badminton season, the country name is associated with you. So, one Olympics defeat should not depress you as you have been triumphant in many great tournaments, starting from Indonesian Super series.
You are a pride of our nation. Treat every tournament as Olympics for you as you are the lone representative from India on whom our medal winning quest totally rests. To play a sport so perfectly, instilling doubts in the minds of Chinese players themselves, is not very easy. But you have been doing it so well which was the reason behind you getting ranked inside top 3 not so long ago.
You can only improve from here. Last time in Beijing you were ousted in quarter finals. This year you proved a point by reaching the Semifinals stage, showing to the whole nation how good a fighter you are. Next time, probably you will win a gold medal for us.
A defeat such as what you had yesterday should only motivate you. If you set aside Chinese players, you are the number one player in the world. Try to think in those terms. You are the best if you take one country out of the equation, the people of which have mastered playing this game so well. So, you have an added advantage over the Chinese girls. They do not have any specific task which they should complete in order to remain numero uno. But you have a target now which if you complete you will become No.1. All you have to do is to better your Chinese opponents. This, precisely, should be your target. Once you are done with it, then not anyone in the world could challenge you. You will become No.1 instantly.
It takes a lot of guts for an individual to do well in a sport where you come face to face with your opponent. Indians have been doing so well in sports such as Cricket, Billiards and Chess which do not offer such face to face contest with opponents. Only games such as badminton and tennis seem to give such enthralling contests. You should be proud of yourself that you are fearless to play in such an atmosphere where you are seeing your opponent eye to an eye.
I believe you are the greatest thing that happened not only to Badminton but also to the entire sports industry of India. I have coined a phrase specifically for you. I name you as the greatest sports girl of India and through this article I am hoping to make it viral. You give me a feeling everytime when I see you play you are closing on to become No.1 in this sport. Even if you don’t become one by the end of your career, you would be seeing loads of players from India getting ranked inside top 10. You would have given that much confidence to younger kids to take up this sport.
In either case, you would have done a great service to the sports culture in India. So, please don’t be dissuaded by any negative comments which are sure to be floated by certain people in the near future. You are going to shine in the future and very soon you would be “Shine”a, my dear Saina.