At the age of 18, Saina Nehwal entered the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Four years later, this champion shuttler from Hyderabad is determined to live up to her billing as India’s best medal hope at the London Olympics.
Saina took a break from her hectic training schedule to share a few thoughts.
Q: How are your preparations for the London Olympics?
A: It’s really going well at the Gopi Chand Academy (Hyderabad), as I am availing of world class facilities under the watchful eyes of coach Gopi Sir. I am also grateful to my fellow trainees who are going all out to support me.
Q: What are the areas you are focusing on?
A: It was a shot in the arm that I won two major events recently — the Thailand and the Indonesian Open. I have proved that the Chinese are no longer unbeatable. But, we (Gopi Sir and I) did spot some areas like stamina and speed which needed greater attention and I am working hard on them.
Q: What makes the Olympics different from any other Super Series event?
A: Well, it is like the final examination for any athlete. There is a different kind of pressure in the Olympics. The sense of national pride and prestige are two major factors here.
Q: What, in your opinion, are your strong points?
A: It is difficult to be specific about this. But, definitely, my performances in the last four years are an indication that I can do better now. I am better in coming back from seemingly lost positions. This is a major plus point. Then my fitness level is at its best.
Q: What is it like to be rated the best medal hope from India in badminton?
A: In fact, all five of us from India (Gutta Jwala, Ashwini Ponnappa, V. Diju and P. Kashyap) will be there in London because we are the best from India. It is a nice feeling, but also not easy to live up to.
Q: What factor separates an Olympic medal winner from a Super Series champion?
A: I don’t think there is too much difference. Only the good performers will be in the Olympics and, like in any big event, you have to be consistent right through. You cannot afford to have an off-day. Everyone dreams big, here.
Keywords: 2012 London Olympics