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5 times Saina Nehwal made Indians proud

Saina Squad
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Saina Nehwal has been the shining beacon of Indian badminton for nearly a decade now. Right from her junior days the Hyderabad girl has been showing glimpses of her abundant talent, and it is no surprise that her climb up the ladder of badminton greatness has been swift and meteoric.A permanent member of the world’s elite for some time now, Saina moved out of the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy to join forces with Vimal Kumar in Bangalore last year. But her dedication, hunger and competitive spirit still remain the same as she continues to bring in more accolades.As Saina prepares for the last event of the year - the World Superseries Finals in Dubai - the Indian continues to put Indian badminton on the global map. And this time, she will even have her own 'Saina Squad' to cheer her on, who would help spur the 25-year-old on to greater heights.Here’s a look at five moments from Saina Nehwal’s career when she made all Indian sports fans proud:

#1 Junior World Champion in 2008

Saina won the Junior World title at the age of 18 in front of her home fans

One of the biggest proofs of Saina’s precocious talent came when she lifted the crown at the 2008 World Junior Badminton Championships at home in Pune. The then-18-year-old Saina was the top seed at the event and she put up a brilliant show of her unwavering determination - she did not lose a single game throughout the tournament.

One of her victims at this event was the future World No. 1 Shixian Wang, who would go on to become one of Saina’s long-time nemeses.In the final, Nehwal beat Sayaka Sato of Japan, 21-9, 21-18, thus etching her name in the record books as the first Indian ever to reign supreme at the World Junior Badminton Championships.

#2 First Indian to win an Olympic medal in badminton

Saina created history in 2012 by becoming the first Indian shuttler to win a medal at the Olympics

Every sportsperson dreams of winning an Olympic medal, and for Saina, that dream came true on August 4, 2012 when she captured the women’s singles bronze at the London Games. Although the medal came under fortuitous circumstances though, with her World No. 2 opponent Xin Wang retiring at 21-18, 1-0 because of a knee injury during the bronze medal play-off, there was no denying Saina's efforts.

With this feat, she embellished her resume further by becoming the first Indian to grab an Olympic badminton medal. Not only that, she also became just the second Indian woman after Karnam Malleswari to have a prized Olympic medal.

“I have always wanted an Olympic medal. I always wanted to see India’s national flag going up at the podium,” said the shuttle queen afterwards.

Saina certainly ensured that the tri-colour went up at the Olympics and with that, she made billions of Indians proud all over the world.

#3 Becoming World No.1

Saina became the first Indian shuttler to reach the pinnacle of the World rankings

It was Saina who ended the hegemony of the Chinese shuttlers over the rankings as she ascended to the pinnacle for the first time on April 2, 2015. The Hyderabadi became the first non-Chineseplayer to claim the numero uno spot since Tine Baun of Denmark held the coveted ranking in 2010.

Thus, she emulated the incredible feat of Indian legend Prakash Padukone, who was the only Indianto be ranked No. 1 before her. In the process, Saina also became the first Indian woman shuttler torise to the top.

Can there be any better place to achieve this than at home? Her accomplishment became all themore sweet as this historic moment came right in front of her adoring fans at the India OpenSuperseries, which she went on to win for the first time.

#4 Reaching the All-England Open final in 2015

Saina on the podium at the All England Open Championships earlier this year

Saina added another feather to her cap when she became the first Indian woman to reach the final of the world’s oldest badminton tournament – the All England Open.

In its 105-year history, there have been just two Indians who have captured the title, and both of them are men – Prakash Padukone in 1980 and Pullela Gopichand in 2001.

Saina underlined the growth of Indian women in badminton by making it to the final. It was an inspiring run from the-then 24-year-old who showed tremendous courage and willpower. 

Along the way she even secured just her second victory over her long-time tormentor, Wang Yihan in 11 meetings, when she upended the Chinese ace in the quarterfinals.Saina went down in the final to the world champion Carolina Marin despite taking a one-game lead. 

But being the fast learner that she is, the India No. 1 will surely learn from her mistakes and try to reverse the result in the future.

#5 World Championships silver in 2015

Saina with the silver medal at the World Champoionships earlier this yea

2015 continued to be a banner year for Nehwal, who added more firsts to her illustrious resume. At the World Championships held in Jakarta, Indonesia, the 25-year-old grabbed the silver, thus producing India’s best-ever performance at this prestigious global event. 

Previously, India had won four bronze medals through Prakash Padukone (1983), Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa (2011) and PV Sindhu (2013 and 2014).

Powered by her improved fitness and an elevated sense of self-belief, the Vimal Kumar-mentored shuttler stormed through to the final for the first time, bettering her five previous quarterfinal appearances.

The fact that she booked her place in the summit clash on the Indian Independence Day made it a proud moment for all Indians watching and supporting her. Saina may have succumbed to the defending champion Carolina Marin again, but she will surely get more chances to go one better.

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