Saina Nehwal believes that the 'golden performance' of the Indian badminton team in the recently-held Delhi Commonwealth Games should be a huge morale booster for the next months' Asian Games in China. "This is an unbelievable performance, especially given the fact that not many have given us a chance in the women's doubles. Hats off to the doubles pair of Jwala and Aswani for their magnificent performance," she commented on arrival along with her teammates here on Saturday after a successful campaign in the Games.
The badminton players were given a warm reception on their arrival. However, the officials of the AP Olympic Association and the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh were not there to receive the players.
'No doubt, Asian Games is a totally different proposition with the Chinese and the Indonesians taking part. But going into that with the gold in your kitty should make you confident, if not complacent," India's best woman shuttler remarked.
Twenty-year-old Saina, who clinched the women's singles gold on the final day to help India finish second overall in the standings of the Games, is delighted that her victory contributed to India's medal tally. "Yes, there was pressure being the last gold at stake for India. But, once I was on the court, the whole focus was on my game and I was not thinking about anything else," she recalled. "It was obviously the most memorable fight back in my career and I am happy that I could win the gold eventually holding off a spirited challenge from the Malaysian girl," she explained. "I won't say I was surprised by Mew Choo Wong's game in the final but this should be expected in an international competition and also a reminder that no match is won till it is actually clinched in any event," she pointed out.
Jwala Gutta and Aswani Ponappa, the women's doubles pair which clinched the gold, are equally delighted. 'It has been a fabulous week in Delhi. We defied all odds and surprised many with our gold," remarked Jwala. "The understanding between us was amazing and I should reiterate that Ashwani played much better than many would have expected. She is a fantastic player and never really showed any nerve in the final," Jwala pointed out.
Referring to her adverse comments on BAI president B. K. Varma, Jwala said she was only expressing her regret at not being congratulated on winning the doubles and that she did not say anything more. "Even now I am yet to get a congratulatory message from him," she moaned.
Ashwani feels that it was just the big win she is desperately looking for to get the recognition. "Now, the confidence level is on a high and I hope to script some more important big wins in the circuit," she said.Parupalli Kashyap, the men's singles bronze medallist, is a bit disappointed that he had to face another Indian (his teammate Chetan Anand) in the bronze medal play-off. "Well, when I look back at the Games, I am really pleased with my performance having beaten former All England champion Mohd Hashim and other higher-rated players including Chetan for the bronze," he said. "However, I am satisfied with my bronze and hope to keep improving," he added.
Chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand termed the Indian shuttlers' show in the Delhi Games as a huge reminder of the ability of these players under demanding conditions. "It was a great week for Indian badminton itself. I think many are forgetting that we won the team silver too which is a creditable achievement. Saina, though she had to put her best foot forward, winning singles is somewhat expected given her ranking but the icing on the cake was the women's doubles gold. It was a fantastic display by them," he concluded.