There was little respite for Saina Nehwal on Wednesday, at a felicitation organized by her sponsor Herbalife. The world No.4, who returned from London with India’s first-ever Olympic badminton medal, was subjected to a draining series of interviews from the press on the sidelines of the felicitation. Saina weathered the storm well, managing to maintain her composure despite having to answer the same questions over and over.
What the medal means
When I was nine, I used to read about those who would stand on the podium. It has always been a dream to win an Olympic medal. I couldn’t control my tears when I stood there. I thought of all the hard work I’d put in, the sacrifices of my parents and my coach. I’ve had to work very, very hard. I’m proud of being the first Indian to win a medal at the Olympics.
Her immediate plans
I want to stay fit and prepare for upcoming events. Rio (next Olympics) is still far away, but I want to prepare for the next Superseries in Japan. Then there will be the World Championships, the Asian Championships, the Commonwealth, and so on. It’s important that I’m physically strong. China has many good players; even if one or two get injured, China won’t face a problem.
Advice to youngsters
It’s important to have belief. The medal will help to inspire more youngsters. You need to set a target for yourself. I had a dream when I was nine. Over the last 13 years I’ve been working hard. This medal will see a lot of people wanting to take up badminton. But there should be more infrastructure and better coaching. The government has done a fantastic job, it has helped us attend tournaments over the last few years. I wish the corporate sector too would come forward and sponsor more players. We’re telling everyone, that it’s possible for India to win more medals. At the last Olympics, there were two of us (from India in badminton). This year there were five.
Saina versus China
China is good at several sports, but in badminton they have so many top-class players. They have eight or nine players who are as good as the No.1. For them, it’s a matter of studying one player, but for me, I need to come up with different strategies for each player. It’s not easy to play four-five of them at every tournament. China has hundreds of academies and hundreds of former champions who work as coaches. They do a lot of video analysis of my game. I’m lucky that I won four tournaments last year.