iconimg Friday, July 03, 2015

Aparna Popat
August 05, 2012
Could you have dreamt of a day when Saina Nehwal would be fitter than a Chinese player? It happened today! From Beijing to London, Saina has come a long way, and the years of hard work and dedication have paid off. There could not have been a better time to be a badminton player in this country. We have a bronze medallist, a men's player, who reached the quarters, a women's doubles pair, which did exceptionally well, and a phenomenal national coach...what more can you ask for.

I saw Saina play during the 2006 Commonwealth Games team event, where she played a singles match in my place, as my wrist was troubling me. She was just 16, and though she wasn't experienced, she delivered nonetheless. That was our first cue that the girl was capable of a lot more. She wasn't scared of playing anyone then, she isn't scared even now.

Hunger to succeed
She has the kind of hunger and dedication which can be there only in a champion. She is a star now, and it is commendable the way she has kept herself focussed despite the media attention. We have amongst us an Olympic medal winner, but even now, she has said that she wants to work harder. So even now, she is thinking about bettering herself.

I can see Gopi Chand's reflection in the way she works. Even he was a dedicated and talented player. It was his dream to win an Olympic gold and when it didn't happen at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, it shattered him. I was there in Sydney and understood his pain.

This is a great achievement for him as well. He's waited for so many years, groomed players to this level and has achieved his dream through his student — I feel very happy for him.

The writer is a two-time Olympian and nine-time national champion.