Vimal Kumar: 'Happy to see Saina Nehwal ready to compete'

Saina, who fractured a spur in her right knee at the Rio Olympics and subsequently had to be operated on, returned to training here this week after spending over two months out.

Coahc Vimal Kumar has cautioned supporters against expecting too much from Saina Nehwal immediately.   -  Sandeep Saxena

While pleased with Saina Nehwal's return from injury, coach U. Vimal Kumar has cautioned against expecting too much of his ward immediately. Saina, who fractured a spur in her right knee at the Rio Olympics and subsequently had to be operated on, >returned to training here this week after spending over two months out.

“She's on the right track with her rehabilitation,” said Vimal. “I didn't find any weaknesses when she came back. I thought there would be some muscle wastage, but her legs look fine. She just needs to get confidence in her movements and her endurance levels need to improve. You cannot rush into things. We will raise the intensity (of training) gradually.”

Having been away for so long, Saina had returned hungry, Vimal felt.

“She has missed badminton,” he said. “For the last two months she couldn't do anything and that energy is there. If she wants to play tournaments, I leave that entirely to her. She feels confident that she can compete. That's her call; it's her body. The result does not matter. If she trains for the next one month she will be back.”

Saina will participate in the China Open (Nov. 15-20) and the Hong Kong Open (Nov. 22-27) — tournaments which Vimal felt would give her a taste of competition again.

“You have to be very realistic with your expectations...what you can do in the next couple of months,” he said. “She just wants to play. I tell her: 'Don't have big expectations. Just go and play. If you're able to perform it's a bonus.' She wants to compete.”

Vimal admitted that the disappointment of Rio would not be easy to overcome. “I comfort her by saying that all top athletes go through this,” he said. “You see the pressures the Indian cricketers face: any small failure is scrutinised and the criticism is tough. See how they cope. They have no choice. (Compared to the cricketers), what Saina may be going through is only 50 per cent.”

It was important, Vimal felt, to reassure Saina of her own abilities. “I tell her: 'Your skills will not desert you. Once you're in good physical shape, you will be back to your best.',” he said. “She's also very young. So it's tough for her. She's not gone through this before. Everyone was expecting a lot from her at the Olympics; the hype was such. You cannot sit and brood if you want to be back. But I'm happy to see her ready to compete. That shows her courage and mental make-up.”

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