Saina to shoulder India's CWG badminton hopes
One of India's star attractions at the Commonwealth Games, World No.3 Saina Nehwal, would be shouldering the nation's badminton campaign in which the hosts are expecting their best performance.other Updated: Sep 27, 2010 14:48 IST
One of India's star attractions at the Commonwealth Games, World No.3 Saina Nehwal, would be shouldering the nation's badminton campaign in which the hosts are expecting their best performance.
Saina's international career took off during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games four years ago when as a 15-year-old she inspired India to a bronze medal victory in the mixed doubles event. Chetan Anand was the other Indian medallist, winning the bronze in the men's singles.
This time, however, India would be looking to swell its medals tally and win at least three of the six gold medals on offer. India's best had come in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur when they won four medals - two silver and two bronze.
While Saina is a strong contender for the women's singles gold, the mixed doubles team of Jwala Gutta and V. Diju, ranked 12th in the world, is also expected to come out on top.
Badminton was introduced in the Commonwealth Games in 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica, where Dinesh Khanna won a bronze medal.
Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a badminton gold at the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games and Syed Modi was the second and the last shuttler to win a gold - in 1982 at Brisbane.
But no Indian woman has won a gold in the Commonwealth Games and Saina, with so many firsts to her name, is ready to add one. Aparna Poppat won bronze at the Manchester Games in 2002.
Sania knows she will get some tough competition from Malaysia, Scotland and Singapore. She, however, is not putting any pressure on herself.
"I am hoping to win a medal and I am training hard for that. I want to give my best, but I do not want to put too much pressure on myself. The competition will be tough because there are some good players in Malaysia, Scotland and Singapore. It would be a tough task," Saina told IANS.
"We have done well in the last couple of years and definitely India will win more medals than in the last Commonwealth Games," said Saina, who won three back-to-back tournaments, including two Super Series (Singapore and Indonesia) this year and achieved a career best ranking of No.2 before dropping one place.
In the men's singles, Chetan Anand and Parupalli Kashyap will be India's hopes. Malaysia will have a strong representation in World No.1 Lee Chong Wei and Muhammad Hafiz Hashim, ranked 19th.
Anand, ranked 17th in the world, has not been in good form this season and has been plagued with a knee injury. Kashyap, ranked 29, who reached the semifinals of the Singapore Super Series in June and the quarterfinals of the Asian Badminton Championships here, will also look to cause some upsets.
In the women's doubles, Jwala Gutta will pair with Ashwini Ponnappa. Aparna Balan has also been included in the squad as a back-up doubles player as Jwala would be playing in the mixed doubles as well.
In the men's doubles, Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, ranked 17, will lead India's challenge.
In the mixed doubles event, India, seeded number two, has been grouped with Scotland, Wales, Barbados and Kenya.
Men: Chetan Anand, Parupalli Kashyap, Sanave Thomas, Rupesh Kumar, V. Diju.
Women: Saina Nehwal, Aditi Mutatkar, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponnappa, Aparna Balan.