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Updated: August 23, 2012 09:22 IST

‘Allow athletes to focus on sport alone’

Sports Reporter
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Saina Nehwal: ‘We need many more dedicated coaches, as well as corporate sponsors to support all our athletes.’ Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K
The Hindu Saina Nehwal: ‘We need many more dedicated coaches, as well as corporate sponsors to support all our athletes.’ Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

I was free to play and not worry about anything else: Saina

An athlete must be allowed to focus on the sport alone, and not worry about anything else. This is the message Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal would like to drive home as India seeks more international success.

“It is important to be free in your mind to play well, and everything around you should be taken care of. In my case, I was free to play my sport and not worry about anything else. That is why I have been performing well in the last three or fours years,” Saina said at a felicitation function organised by her sponsor Herbalife here on Wednesday.

Unstinting support

Saina’s father, Harvir Singh Nehwal — who has spared no effort to rope in fine coaches and timely sponsors — has provided her this uncompromising support. “I fought for her, and I gave her the best facilities possible. But this was hard without financial assistance, which I did not have at the time.

“Many people came forward when she became the under-13 national champion. Bharat Petroleum gave her a sponsorship program. Petroleum Sports Promotion Board and Yonex also came forward, and my difficulties then eased,” said the agriculture scientist.

The hard times are now long over, and the proud father now leads a vastly different life. “Back then, I did not even have a scooter, and now we have seven cars, a good house to live, and a great reputation in society. There’s been a miraculous change in my life,” Mr. Nehwal said.

Infrastructure is key

Saina then delved into more details on what it takes to produce top-class sportspersons.

“Infrastructure is the key to improvement. We need many more dedicated coaches, as well as corporate sponsors to support all our athletes. Every academy should have everything a sportsperson needs. If all this happens, you can see a lot more medals for India.”

As an unruly scrum of reporters, photographers and television crew jostled with each other to catch her every word, this much was abundantly clear: when Saina speaks, the jungle listens.

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