A historic bronze medal for India in Olympic Games badminton was not something that many had bargained for when the Indian shuttlers began the competitions in the 30th edition of the mega event here.
Though Saina Nehwal was regarded as a medal contender, many had doubts on whether she could break the Chinese stranglehold to actually win a medal for the country.
The bronze medal for Saina came under fortuitous circumstances when the world no 2 Chinese Xin Wang retired because of a knee injury just at the start of the second game, giving India its first ever Olympic medal in badminton.
The debate will always continue whether Saina, who was trailing 18—21 0—1 when Wang conceded the match, could have actually prevailed over her strong Chinese opponent if the match had gone the distance.
Saina reckons that she could have pulled it off as the Chinese was getting tired and she was beginning to find her rhythm midway through the first set.
But all said and done, it is a historic medal for India and as Saina herself suggests, could change the badminton scenario in the country which has struggled to find players of international quality for long.
Apart from Saina’s bronze winning moment, another quiet and shy player - Parupalli Kashyap also made an impression by becoming the first Indian male to reach the quarterfinal stage of the Olympics Games.
Not many had expected Kashyap to set the badminton arena on fire, so his performance to secure a place in the quarterfinals was highly creditable.
The other shuttlers - Jwala Gutta, V.Diju and Ashwini Ponappa, did not really make much of an impression failing to make it to the quarterfinal knock—out stage in their respective team events.
Jwala and Ashwini featured in the women’s doubles event and were distinctly unlucky not to make the knockout stages, missing out by just one difference point.
Tapei, Japan and India all finished their group—B league matches with two wins and one loss but India missed out by just one point when the difference was calculated taking into account the overall games won and loss and points won and loss.
Taipei qualified easily having a difference point of 21 while Japan edged out India (3) with 4 points.
The event itself was marked by a major controversy and allegations of deliberate under—performance by many teams to influence a favourable draw.
The international badminton body cracked the whip by disqualifying four top teams to cleanse the game. But the world body may have to have a re-look at the bizarre format for the qualifications as it encourages such malpractices.
In the mixed doubles, Jwala Gutta and V.Diju could not make much of an impression and quite expectedly did not make the knock—out stage.
In the end, it was the bronze medal which came as a refreshing change for the shuttlers who often made up the numbers in the Olympics, seldom being competitive enough to pose a threat to top players the world over.
As Saina herself put it, it was a dream come true and she never believed that an Indian could actually win a medal in Olympics badminton.
“It’s a dream. I wanted gold but I am happy. At the next Olympics I will do better. I never thought a player from India would get a medal at badminton. It’s a very proud day.”
“This medal will change a lot of things. We will see a change in the badminton scene and more and more girls will take up the sport. Sindhu is doing well for India and similarly many more girls will come through like in China and Korea,” she added.