It is just the beginning and I want to win many more medals, says ace shuttler and London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal. “I am more relaxed now and it will not be difficult for me to keep myself motivated for the next four years. For the next big goal is to improve upon my bronze medal,” the champion shuttler said on her return from London on Tuesday.
“I love to keep playing till 36. Touch wood, if I maintain my fitness levels. There is still lot to achieve and I am very keen to keep winning big titles and many medals too,” Saina said.
“Well, before the start of Olympics I was confident of winning a medal, especially after winning the Thai and the Indonesian Opens beating some of the big Chinese names,” Saina said. “ But, I did not tell the media this for it meant putting lot of pressure on you. I am glad I achieved what I said before the Games,” she said.
“The first time I dreamt of an Olympic medal was in 1999 when I started playing because my mom (Usha Nehwal) insisted that I should aim at winning Olympic medal. I told her – are you joking for I just started playing. But she felt that unless I dream big I cannot achieve big goals,” Saina recalled.
Looking back to her bronze, the 22-year-old Saina said the wonderful journey began on July 23 when she arrived in London and had good training sessions. “Yes, it was sad to see her opponent (Wang Xin) fall down on the court because of the injury in play-off match. “I have never won a match like this before. Yes, I was lucky in a way on that day,” she remarked.
“But, I could not control my emotions when I stood on the medal podium. For that's what I have been dreaming for so long and working so hard, making so many sacrifices along with Gopi sir (chief national
coach Pullela Gopi Chand,” a visibly delighted Saina remarked.
“I saw people dying to get an Olympic medal. Now, though me and Gopi sir are feeling normal after actually getting the bronze, I am jumping in joy from inside. I am actually speechless whenever I think of it. It was a great feeling,” Saina said.
“I was crying for two hours after the semi-final loss to World No. Wang Yihan. It was terrible for I was so desperate to go for the gold. But once Gopi sir told me about the importance of the bronze medal play off the next day, I recouped myself and started focussing on that. I am glad that his words of wisdom paid off so well,” she said.
Referring to the impact of her Olympics bronze medal on badminton as such in India, Saina felt one had to wait to see what was in store.
“Already there are quite a few youngsters who are really doing well and I am confident that India will be a force to reckon with in the next Olympics,” she said. “Well, the fact that we had five shuttlers and one of them Kashyap had entered the men's singles quarter-final and even the doubles combinations doing so well, it was a great improvement from the last Olympics itself. I am confident of a great future for the sport in India,” Saina said.
Saina profusely thanked her coach and mentor Gopi Chand all her achievements. “We all know how many challenges he had faced in his life and sporting career. There were many who actually told me that I was wasting time under him. And there were many who told that I cannot beat champions. But thanks to Gopi Sir, all this has happened,” she explained.
“Definitely, I am delighted that I have done what I have told my dad (Dr. Harvir Singh) before going to Olympics – this time I will come back with a medal. And I must thank all the support staff at the Academy and all those who prayed for my success and conveyed their best wishes,” she said.
For his part Gopi said that his life would have been incomplete without this bronze medal. “I must thank Saina for this. She really pushed hard for the last eight months, never skipping a day's training session. It was her sheer hard work which helped us see this dream finish,” he remarked.
“There are many athletes who wish to win an Olympic medal during their playing time. But, I am fortunate to be the medal-winner in my lifetime (as a coach) of a champion player,” he said amidst applause at his Academy.
Dr. Harvir Singh (Saina's father) felt that the medal was the result of his daughter's efforts and the guidance of her guru (Gopi Chand). “For anyone to be successful, you need two things – environment and a guru to guide you in the right direction. I must say Saina was lucky to have such gurus from her childhood including
Nani Prasad (late SAAP coach) and Arif Sir (S. M. Arif),” he remarked.