Hyderabad - India’s ace shuttler Saina Nehwal Tuesday said winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics was a dream come true and would motivate her to achieve greater things in the future – a gold at the 2016 Rio Games, for instance.
“I dreamt of becoming an Olympic champion at the age of nine and today it is a reality. It is simply unbelievable. I am proud of myself because what I said I did. I am so happy over this,” she told reporters on her return from London.
“I am speechless. I never thought I would stand on the podium one day to get this medal. When I stood on the podium I was thinking about all the hard work I put in. The hard work of my coach and parents and the prayers of my well wishers,” she said displaying her bronze medal proudly.
Saina became the first Indian badminton player and second woman from the country to win an Olympic medal when her opponent Wang Xin of China pulled out of the bronze medal play-off due to a knee injury. The India had lost to world champion Wang Yihan in the semifinals.
The Hyderabadi admitted that missing the gold medal was disappointing. “You always want to win gold but I think that girl (Li Xuerui) who won the gold was lucky because I beat her in the Indonesian Open. So it all depends on the day. She had better matches and she won the gold,” she said.
The 22-year-old said the feat had given her lot more inspiration to do well and become the best player in the world. “It is just the beginning and I hope I get many more medals for the country,” said Saina while thanking her coach Pullela Gopichand and her father Harvir Singh Nehwal, who were also present at the media conference.
“There is nothing bigger than standing on the podium at the Olympics. I feel that is what is life,” she said when asked how she would compensate missing the pleasures of common life.
Saina hopes that next four years would be much better because she would play with more confidence and would be more relaxed. “I didn’t want to go to next Olympics with the pressure of not winning a medal this time.”
Saina claimed that before leaving for London she was very confident of winning a medal as she was training very hard and had won Thailand and Indonesian Open, where she beat all the top players. “I was not coming in media and saying this. Olympics is such a big event. You need to be relaxed in the tournament and not to put extra pressure on yourself. I have seen many players doing that.”
While she was confident of a comeback in the bronze play-off, Saina disclosed that she cried for one to two hours after losing the semifinal to Wang Yihan. “I really wanted to play final but sometimes it happens that you don’t play well. I said forget it there is chance for a bronze tomorrow.”
To another query, Saina said she wanted to get more medals for the country. “If I win I will continue till whenever I want. I have played against players who are 33 and 35 years old. It depends on how you progress, how you maintain yourself. Now it is time to progress, work harder and get more medals for the country.”
Earlier in the day, Saina was accorded a warm welcome at the airport by her well wishers and the officials of Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh. Amid the beating of drums and bursting of crackers, she reached Gopichand Academy on a ‘baghi’.