Saina Nehwal is the queen of Indian badminton. The fourth seeded player in the world missed a medal at the Beijing Olympics but came back strongly to win a bronze at the London Games. She speaks to Gaurav Jha from Indian Sports News about what an Oympic medal means to her, the pressure that was on her, the Chinese brigade that she faces in every tournament and much more. Excerpts
ISN: Finally you have achieved what you always wanted to, how is the feeling?
Saina: I am extremely happy and relieved. I have always wanted to win an Olympic medal and it feels great. I came so close to winning the medal at Beijing but couldn’t win. Every day I thought about the missed opportunity and it was great to stand on the podium in London.
ISN: Tell us about the journey from Beijing to London?
Saina: The journey has been pretty good. I had a chance to win a medal in my first Olympics and things were going great for me in the quarterfinals but somehow I lost the match, I think about that loss even now and it hurts. Since Beijing I can say that I handle pressure better as I have played in so many major competitions. Going into the London Olympics I was very upbeat about my chances as I won Thailand Open and Indonesia Open in quick span and that gave me a lot of confidence.
ISN: You were one of the biggest medal contenders from India, how much pressure was on you?
Saina: There was huge pressure on me. I knew that people expected a lot from me and it will be wrong if I say that it didn’t affect me. After the loss in Beijing, I really wanted to win a medal. There were times when I cried in the practice sessions. An Olympic medal means a lot to me and I am very happy that I won a bronze medal.
ISN: Tell us about your rivalry against the Chinese players/
Saina: Chinese have always dominated badminton and one will have to beat them if you want to do well in the competition. There were four Chinese players in Olympics. I lost to one and defeated one. So I am pretty happy with the overall ratio. It is always going to be Saina vs China, in badminton. There are 5-6 Chinese players who are dominating the badminton world. We also need some players to come up to break the ‘Chinese Wall’ on a consistent basis.
ISN: Indian contingent won six medals at the Olympics, how bigger achievement you think it is?
Saina: It is a huge achievement. India is not a sporting country and it is not easy to win an Olympic medal so to win six is a huge thing. The biggest achievement is that all the athletes that participated in London went there to win and not only to participate. Things are changing for good and things will be better in the future.
ISN: What is your plan of action for future?
Saina: I just want to be fit and in the right frame of mind. I am not thinking about Rio right now because there are lots of important competitions before the next Olympics. I am working on my fitness and will continue doing that.