London games preparation on
right track: Saina
This is a
crucial year. She is a medal hope. With Olympics slated to take
place in July, Indian Badminton queen and World number 4 Saina
Nehwal is cautious but firmly on track as far as preparations
for the quadrennial event are concerned. As far as Badminton
goes, the twenty-one-year-old is the only Indian till now to
have secured a berth for London Games. In a free-wheeling chat
with Amit Khanna, the Khel Ratna
awardee speaks about representing India in Olympics, her
preparations, Chinese domination, medal-winning games for India
and much more.
How do you rate your
performance in the just-concluded Malaysian Open?
It was the first
major tournament of this year and I am quite satisfied with my
show. The draw was a tough one for me with all the big guns in
my half. I beat Singapore girl in first round, a World Cup medal
winner in second round and a two time All England champion in
the quarters. I eventually lost to World number one Wang Yihan
in the semifinal. It was a tight fixture and I was sure to
topple her but on the given day she just proved better again.
Losing to Wang
must have been tough. What do you feel went wrong in the semis?
Yes, it was pretty
tough. I was 16 and she was 19 in 2006 when I lost to her in
Junior World Cup in 2006 in Korea. Since then it was the fifth
encounter with her which I lost. Out of those five, in three
matches, I lost in three sets coming very near to win. I keep a
good record of players with whom I have played in the past. I am
yet to defeat her as my plan is not working. She is tall and
almost plays with smashes and drops.
Which major tournaments will
you be participating in this year before the Olympic Games?
This year before
the Olympics, every tournament I play is going to be extra
crucial. I play Uber Cup in February, All England Championships
in March, India Super Series in April, and Indonesia Open in
Any special preparation or
fitness regimen you are following for the Olympic Games?
Yes, all aspects
of my training are at a high pitch under the guidance of Gopi
sir and my physio Mr Kiran. The emphasis is to keep myself
injury free and competition ready. It is a very strict regimen I
follow and thatís what I believe is the mantra. London Games
preparation is on the right track and hopefully I will do the
Does the expectation to win an
Olympic medal bring any undue pressure on you?
Yes it happens to
every player and there is no escape route. As the time will come
nearer, there will be more media coverage about it which raises
the level of expectations. We discuss all these things with yoga
experts and my parents also guide me to not take any undue
How do you rate Indiaís
chances? How many medals can we win?
With the passage
of time, the standard of our players has improved in each game
and we are a threat to top players in many disciplines. Olympics
Gold Quest is helping a number of players. I believe many medals
will come to India from boxing, shooting, wrestling, badminton,
and archery. Sadly, our national sport hockey, which in the past
has won us many medals is not in great shape.
Badminton has not seen much of
anybody else except you on the national scene in the last two
years. Do you see any promising young talent coming up?
Yes the picture is
very promising. If you ask me there are three boys who are below
World Ranking 30, and girls too are doing well. With hard-work
and the right kind of training they are bound to do well.
Have there been any changes in
the sports facilities in the last two years or do you think
there is still a lot to be done to encourage new talent? What do
Yes, as I said
earlier, I am `A0happy that the Government of India and many
state governments are encouraging sportspersons in a big way. In
the last Olympics, all the medals came from parts of Haryana,
Punjab and Delhi within a radius of 100 km. Players should not
be treated differently than those who have done well in studies.
Sports are also like studies, it requires concentration for
almost each minute of the day during the sports carreer.
Which countryís players will
pose maximum challenge in badminton?
It will depend on
the draw. There will be 3 players from china. I can beat anybody
in the world except a few from China. It is not that chinese are
not beatable. I have beaten most of the Chinese players in one
or the other tournaments. Let us hope for a better draw. I will
be doing my best to for the country.
How much do you credit you
coaching staff for your success?
They have made me
to come to this level. My coach Gopi, the physio Kiran. Data
analyser Maqdoom, dietician, sparring players who are also world
class deserve a mention. They help me every day to do my best.
Test of staying power
At London 2012, there will be five medal events: menís and womenís Singles, menís and womenís Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. All events will begin with a preliminary stage: the competitors will be divided into groups, and each player and doubles pair will play everyone else in their group.
The best players and doubles pairs from this stage (16 in each Singles event, eight pairs in each Doubles event) will qualify for the knockout stage of the competition, which will eventually decide the winners of the medals.