Two-time Olympian shuttler Aparna Popat is confident that India would have its best-ever showing in the history of Olympic Games this time and expects a haul of at least half a dozen medals in the mega event-that kicks off on Friday in London.
“I think six or seven medals is what we can look for from this Olympics,” Popat told PTI here at an event organised by magazine Sportstar.
India picked up a gold in shooting, and two bronze medals in boxing and wrestling in the previous Games at Beijing, which remains the country’s highest-ever performance from a single Olympics.
She earmarked Saina Nehwal as the strongest contender for a medal in the London Games.
“I did visit the training centre and met Saina there. I have also been seeing her matches in the Indonesian Open. In a sense I have this inkling of how she is playing and her form. Hence I am very confidently saying a medal will come. I don’t know which medal would come but definitely wish for gold,” the 34-year-old former national champion said.
“In badminton, she is the best bet. In doubles also we have a chance but seeing the draw that is an outside chance,” Popat added.
Nehwal beat Chinese world number four Shixian Wang and and world number three Xuerui Li en route to her third Indonesia Open title in last four years at Jakarta.
Popat said there will pressure on Saina but felt the 22-year-old will be able to cope up with it as she has done in the past.
“There will be pressure on her but she knows how to handle it,” she said.
On the threat posed by Chinese shuttlers to Saina, Popat said, “Saina is not meeting any Chinese players till the semi-finals. She has beaten them before, so I don’t see any reason why she can’t do now.”
Popat added that fellow shuttlers Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Valiyaveetil Diju also have a chance.
“One medal for sure, but more than one is possible. As a whole our badminton players have been doing well. Jwala and Diju are number six in the world. Jwala and Ashwini have won medals at world championship and the Commonwealth Games. Over all Indian badminton is looking good,” she said.
Popat, who had reached the pre-quarter-finals of women’s singles event in the 2004 Athens Olympics a feat that was later bettered by Saina in Beijing, said there will be pressure on all athletes to perform at the Games.
“The pressure is tremendous especially knowing that you have a chance now and the next one is four years later.
Pressure is tremendous but they are much better prepared this time,” she said.