Hyderabad: Tete-a-tete with Olympic Medalist Saina Nehwal
Pics: Dayanand Kukkaje
Daijiworld Media Network
Interviewed by: Errol Gonsalves
Hyderabad, Aug 16: She has redefined and rejuvenated badminton in India with her stupendous performances over the years. Earlier this month, Saina Nehwal, currently ranked 4th in the world, became the first Indian to win a medal in badminton in Olympics, clinching bronze at London. Born on March 17, 1990 at Hisar, the 22-year-old champion is also a Khel Ratna awardee and has many firsts to her credit in Indian badminton history. She holds an impressive record of 193 wins in singles of the 278 matches she has played so far.
Daijiworld caught up with Saina for an exclusive interview at Hyderabad.
Q: Hi Saina, how do you feel after winning the bronze in London Olympics?
A: Medal is a medal. Olympics is a great event. I am happy with my achievement. I was trying for gold but that couldnít happen. But I am happy that I won bronze for the country.
Q: Do have any regrets about not winning the gold?
A: Everyone tries for gold, but unfortunately that didnít happen. I am so happy winning a medal in badminton for the first time in Olympics.
Q: What exactly were you thinking while facing Chinese player?
A: I was just trying to do my best, of course China is a strong competitor... itís not so easy to beat them again and again. I was trying to be more patient and trying to implement my strategy. But in the semi-final my strategy did not work. In the play-off matches when I played against other Chinese players my strategy luckily worked.
Q: What has made Chinese players dominate world badminton from past 10-20 years?
A: I think itís just the way they have been performing from so many years. They have all the champion coaches, they have badminton academy in every city. I think that makes the difference. I think from past so many years they have been producing champions.
Q: Do you think India can reach that level?
A: Indian badminton has improved over the last 5-6 years. So we are a good side. Gopi sir (coach and mentor Pullela Gopichand) is making sure that we train hard, play better and stay fit. China has been doing this from past many years. It's not like China is unbeatable, but it will take sometime. We have to fight hard against the Chinese.
Q: What did Gopi sir say before the crucial Olympic match?
A: He just told me to be focused and confident. In Olympics every medal is important and he just told me to relax. I just kept myself relaxed and my focus was to give my best against the Chinese players and not think about the medal.
Q: What was the reaction of your family?
A: Dad was very happy. For him winning medal is very important. In fact, I had promised a medal for him and he was very happy that I won it. He is really overjoyed and satisfied. My sister, my mother, all are happy. These three people are very important in my life.
Q: What will be your strategy for the upcoming series?
A: No special strategy right now but there's a lot of work to be done. After that, I will be playing the Japan Open and then the Superseries event will start. Of course, there will be a strategy against all the top players. That is common in all tournaments and so I am not so worried about it. It is important that I stay fit and give my best in each tournament.
Q: Apart from badminton do you follow any other sports?
A: Yes, in tennis Roger Federer is my favorite. I respect him a lot and love watching him play. Sachin Tendulkar in cricket and Taufik Hidayat in badminton are my favourites. I respect all these three players. They have changed my life and I get a lot of inspiration from them.
Q: To what extent has your coach Gopichand influenced your badminton career?
A: He plays a very big role. He has been my coach from many years. His hard work has shaped my career. His badminton academy is another plus point. We needed a place to practice and I think the academy came at the right time. I thank all my co-players who played with me and helped me practice... I have achieved all this because of them. Gopi sir is very hard working... he comes to practice at 4.30 - 5 am, plays with us, and stays on till 9 in the night. He is very dedicated and works hard.
Q: What is your message for budding players?
A: Work hard and be prepared for tough training. It's not easy. It is a difficult game. If you really believe in yourself you can do it. If I can do it, you all can do it. Work hard and keep going.