Saina feels shuttlers can bag multiple medals in Rio

Saina Nehwal felt that the seven-member badminton contingent had a chance of bagging a medal "in almost every event." "All of us have been performing well for the last two or three years. I am sure we have a lot of chances," she said.

Saina Nehwal being honoured with the first Anniversary Edition of The Indian Car of the Year 2016 - CRETA.   -  Special Arrangement

Notwithstanding the inconsistency and inexperience plaguing the Indian Olympic badminton contingent, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal felt that it had a chance of bagging a medal “in almost every event.” The seven-member team is India’s biggest ever – up from five at the 2012 London Games – comprising Saina, P.V. Sindhu, K. Srikanth, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy.

“I am really happy that we are seven this time,” said Saina at an event held by Hyundai to celebrate her Australian Open win. “It has improved so much from last time. All of us have been performing well for the last two or three years. I am sure we have a lot of chances.”

Saina, reflecting on her own growth since the bronze-medal winning effort in London, indicated that she was richer for the experience and better placed than last time around.

“I became World No. 1 [during this period],” she said. “I won the World Championship silver medal. I beat couple of top players whom I had never defeated before. Like Wang Yihan, Carolina [Marin], Ratchanok [Intanon]. There is one girl who is still a mystery for me – Tai Tzu Ying. I hope I solve that puzzle as well. She is a very technical player and one of the strong contenders.”

Yet, a few months ago, things didn’t look that rosy for Saina. In the latter part of 2015, she suffered an Achilles tendon injury and the ensuing phase, in her own words, was the ‘most challenging of her career’. The Australian Open win early last month came like oxygen and also helped her arrest a slide down the world rankings.

“The win was about how I came back from the injury,” she explained. “I never thought about Olympics, rankings or anything. It was about how I could win against players who have been troubling me. I wanted to get that confidence and the winning momentum which I had lost in November in the final of the China Open. Because of the injury, I could not come back strongly. Now I am happy to have got that break.”

For Saina, Rio will be her third Olympics, but one in which she will have to deal with heightened expectations.

“One needs to just forget [the word] Olympics,” she said. “Take it as Rio Super Series. But it is the toughest tournament. There is no round which will be easy. So even if you want to forget it as the Olympics, people will keep coming and reminding you that it is the Olympics.”