In a book titled My Olympic Journey, Indian ace Saina Nehwal has revealed how her achievements at the 2008 and 2012 editions of the Olympics changed Indian badminton. The Olympics bronze-medallist also reflected on her medal-winning performance in the last edition of the quadrennial event.
In the book, co-authored by journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose, Saina Nehwal revealed how her quarter-final appearance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a turning point in Indian badminton. In the 2008 Olympics, Saina became the first Indian shuttler to enter the quarters of the quadrennial event. Although she lost to Maria Kristin Yulianti of Indonesia in the quarters, Saina believes that it inspired a generation of Indian badminton players, especially girls.
"I am proud to think that I inspired a new generation to take up badminton, especially girls. Across the world, one generation of successful athletes inspires the next lot of champions. It is a trend, and Beijing saw Indian badminton cash in on my story. From then, the pressure was on me to perform and build on my success, and this proved to be a motivating factor in my career," wrote Saina, reported The Times of India.
She also credited her former coach P Gopichand for improving her game and said that her first Super Series title in the 2009 Indonesia Open helped her believe that she can achieve success at the international level.
I am proud to think that I inspired a new generation to take up badminton, especially girls
"It proved to be a catalyst for what followed. I started reaching the semi-finals and finals of major tournaments consistently, and as a result, my ranking improved as well. A lot of credit goes to Gopi for improving my game and scripting success after success on the circuit.
“In 2010, I won three titles in a row: the Indian Open, the Singapore Open, and a successful defending of my title at the Indonesian Open. That year I was also awarded the country's highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, and won the final gold medal of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that took India to second place on the medal tally," Saina added.
In 2012, Saina became the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics. In the book, the 26-year-old revealed her emotions after losing the semi-final and how she felt during the bronze medal play-off.
"I was disappointed (to lose in the semi-final). I had gone to London to win the gold. I had a day to compose myself, as I knew I had to return with a medal. I had to show something for all the hard work that I had put in over the last four years. I knew I could beat Wang Xin as I had beaten her in the past. I lost the first game but was still confident of coming through, as it was my eagerness to dominate and be aggressive that had seen me commit unforced errors. I had already noticed that Wang was not moving too well and looked short of full fitness for a match at this level.
"My intuition proved correct as she fell down exhausted at the start of the second game and had to concede the match. I was extremely surprised when it happened. I wanted to win my medal by defeating my opponent, but never did I imagine that I would win an Olympic medal by virtue of my opponent being exhausted! I was a bit rattled to see her in agony and went across to sympathize with and console her. I hugged her and shook her hand as she conceded the match, and it never crossed my mind to celebrate that moment. It would not have been the correct thing to do, and I am proud that I kept my emotions in check. There would be time for it, an hour or so later, when I stood on the podium and saw the tri-colour rise over Wembley Arena," wrote Saina, reported the Times of India.
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