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FLUKE SHOT Badminton was not Saina Nehwal’s first choice

FLUKE SHOT Badminton was not Saina Nehwal’s first choice   | Photo Credit: Photo: Murali Kumar K.



Badminton ace Saina Nehwal is confident of her game plan



Saina Nehwal appears confident as she divulges her ambition to be crowned world number one in badminton one day.

“It may take some time to reach the top, since the other players are also talented and much more experienced than me,” says Saina, currently the world number 10 in the sport.

Badminton was not her first choice of sport. “I took up badminton fairly late, when my family moved to Hyderabad. I was undergoing training in karate, but was bored soon. My dad then asked me to try my hand at badminton. I started coaching sessions and felt very comfortable playing the game.”

It was not a cakewalk initially. “When I had started playing at the junior level in 1998-99, I had to manage my school and practice hours. I would wake at four in the morning, head for practice at the stadium nearly 25 kilometres from home, return and get ready for school. I would head back to the stadium again after school.”

Badminton is fast emerging as a popular sport in the country, feels Saina.

“It is great that many youngsters are taking to the sport, thanks to the facilities provided by academies in Bangalore and Hyderabad. The academies are churning out the best available talent into world class players.”

She is thankful to her coaches, especially Pullela Gopichand.

“He was a source of inspiration for me. He has been a great coach and helped me in formulating a fitness regime and adjusting my practice schedule. The foreign trainers and coaches have also been a great help. They help me relax, on the eve of major tournaments, so that I can retain my focus.”

“I hope to break into the top five in the world this year. It’s going to be tough, but I am confident about my chances.” Saina dismisses talk about age being a major factor in badminton tournaments.

“A combination of talent and stamina is vital to success in the sport. You need not be a teenager to succeed.

“The Olympic gold medallist is 34 years old. It depends on your mental fitness too.”

NIKHIL VARMA

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