Saina Nehwal's 2012 London Olympics bronze medal: Hard work, belief and sacrifices

“...it was a very, very special moment in my career when I won the Olympics bronze. It was always my and my parents’ dream from the day I joined badminton in 1999,” says Saina Nehwal.

Saina Nehwal won the medal by default as her opponent conceded the match due to injury after winning the first game and leading 1-0 in the second.   -  PTI

Saina Nehwal ushered in a revolution in her sport in India. Ever since the legendary Prakash Padukone made a lasting impact on the world of badminton and P. Gopichand caught the imagination of the critics by winning the 2001 All England Championship, no woman shuttler from India had made such an impact on the sport, triggering a wave of interest across the country.

With her bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, Nehwal made history by becoming the first Indian shuttler to win a medal at the Olympics.

In the run-up to the London Games, Nehwal was the cynosure of all eyes, winning many BWF Grand Prix titles besides five Super Series tournaments, with the three Indonesia Opens topping the chart besides the 2010 Commonwealth Games singles gold in Delhi.

“I remember running a fever a few weeks before the London Olympics and thus the early struggle in the Games was somewhat predictable,” said Nehwal.

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After cruising past lower-rated players, the champion Indian shuttler ran into the more reputed, three-time All England champion Tine Baun in the quarterfinals and won in two straight games.

Nehwal then ran into China’s formidable Wang Yihan in the semifinals, only to end up losing, much to the dismay of her fans.

“Unfortunately, I could not raise my game as the aftereffects of the viral fever took their full toll. Yihan realised I was not moving too well and hustled me around the court,” Nehwal said later. “The lack of stamina saw me surrender without a fight. I was disappointed. I had gone to London to win the gold.” But Nehwal’s London odyssey was still on as she was up against another Chinese player, Wang Xin, in the bronze-medal match.

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Nehwal won the medal by default as her opponent conceded the match due to injury after winning the first game and leading 1-0 in the second. “I was extremely surprised when it happened. I wanted to win my medal by defeating my opponent,” said Nehwal. “I was a bit rattled to see her in agony and went across to console her.”

“But it was a very, very special moment in my career when I won the Olympics bronze. It was always my and my parents’ dream from the day I joined badminton in 1999. Hard work, belief and some sacrifices made it possible,” she said.

Nehwal lost in the second round at 2016 Rio Olympics having played with an injured knee, which she later regretted.

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