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Saina Nehwal took painkiller injection to compete in Rio, reveals coach

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SportsCafe Desk

12/02/2016

Saina Nehwal’s coach Vimal Kumar has revealed that the world No 11 had taken a painkiller injection in order to compete at the Rio Olympics in August, and would require another four to six weeks at the least to be back at her best after undergoing a knee surgery.

The 26-year-old had undergone surgery in September for an intra-articular injury (inside the joint) to her right knee that she sustained during the Rio Olympics.

Nehwal dropped out of the top-10 post her return following afirst round exit at the China Open and lost in the quarter-finals at the Hong Kong Open.

Although she booked her place in the quarter-finals of the ongoing Macau Open, her coach said she was still four to six weeks away from getting back to her best.

“She is definitely not back to her best and has some way to go before she can aspire to win big tournaments again. She needs some more time, may be in terms of physical and strength aspects in which she needs to improve,” he told PTI news agency.

“After this (Macau) there's nothing for her till end-January – the Syed Modi Memorial Grand Prix Gold (in Lucknow). Of course PBL (Premier Badminton League) is there (in the first part of January) in which she will play, being one of the big names. But it lasts two weeks and is not a very high intensity competition, in the real sense.

“In another 4-6 weeks (she should be back to top level) once she starts high intensity training. She has enough time when she enters that (Modi Memorial) competition and if nothing goes wrong, from end-January onwards she will be a strong contender.

“When she comes back (from Macau) we will have to see when she can start high intensity training. I have given all power to the trainer. Their session comes first and on-court badminton comes second. I have told him to ensure that the leg is good. There's enough time. She can do good training and come back.”

Vimal is pleased with how Nehwal’s leg is holding up post surgery.

“Physically she needs to get better, but the most important thing is her leg is holding fine. Today also she struggled. They are all steady players, playing long rallies and the shuttles (in Macau) are slow,” he said.

“She is someone who thrives on competition. She wanted to know where she stands once she did not feel any pain. When she came back (to the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru after surgery) for training routine she felt tiredness but her leg was holding well.”

Vimal also highlighted the big opportunity Nehwal has to make her way back to the top with a host of top players out of action at the moment.

"She has played some tough players and it's the third tournament in a row. She lost in first round and then reached quarter-finals in the second. All these will give her confidence in her climb to the top,” he said.

“When she says I am okay, it's her body. She's a grown up girl, one of the top players in the world, and knows her body.

“This I learned from Prakash – to take responsibility. She said she felt good and wanted to compete.

“Nothing is going wrong with her leg. I am not worried about end results now. There's a lot of scope for improvement and she is not yet at that high level to push those top players.

“The main thing is 4-5 top players are not there (for one reason or another). The top two Chinese women have retired and Li Xuerei is injured. Ratchanok (Intanon) is injured and Carolina (Marin) is also not there.

“It's good for the next line of players to push and she should just think she is in the next line of players.”

Nehwal, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, had expressed concerns over her future following her knee injury, hinting at early retirement after the group stage exit at Rio.

“She developed this strain, it was the stiffness of the thigh and she felt it 4-5 days before our departure for the Games. She felt her legs appeared to be heavy. She consulted doctors and they said it was an inflammation of fat pad covering the bone,” Vimal said.

“She took the flight lasting 15 hours from Dubai. And over there (Rio) we went to the gymnasium, did treadmill run. She said that stiffness was still there the next day morning after the first practice session. She said it was really paining and asked can I take a painkiller injection and play.

“She was looking at the quarter-finals. Then physio and Games village doctor all advised against it. Next day she played and felt pain. In that first match she literally struggled. After that she came out and said she was defying everyone. With painkiller the pain can be masked and she could play.

“She took the injection before the second match, played it with pain as she could not put her foot down. It was really bad but she played with a lot of pain (and lost). We left that night itself from Rio.

“After coming over here it was found through scan that the bone, protruding into fat pad, had chipped off. It was floating inside. All the painkilling injections were a waste.

“Then she was operated. The main thing was all her ligaments were intact and that made her, to some extent, recover fast.”

Nehwal faced a lot of criticism for her Rio flop show.

“Talks that she had gone there with injury did hurt her. She is someone who is constantly playing for the last seven years. When she plays she wants to win. She could not digest the fact that it happened there, either during the long flight or during one of our training sessions,” Vimal said.

“There was no pressure of expectations. All those things never affected her. When the cricketers play there are so many opinions about how they should have played. Compared to that pressure in badminton is nothing. You cannot blame anyone, it just happened to you, and you just accept it. She is just 26, quite young and she is an athlete who wants to win. She is not a politician. Sports people are sensitive.”

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