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I want to concentrate on being the best

Badminton’s pride Saina Nehwal talks about life and her journey to glory

education Updated: Dec 08, 2010 09:22 IST
Pankaj Mullick

Early years
I had a very memorable childhood and my fondest memories are of playing on the sprawling green lawns of the faculty club beside my house at Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar. Despite what one might imagine, my playing time was confined to the evenings and Sundays and it was difficult for me because I enjoyed each and every sport including running, swimming, cricket etc. Remarkably, my first medal was not in badminton, but in the 50-metre frog race in which I stood second. I learnt early in childhood that it was not enough to be blessed with talent, it was equally important to harness and fine tune that talent to win trophies.

Track of success
My initial successes, not professional in the sense of them being under the aegis of an international body, were my (badminton) victories in the (age) 13 championship, runners up in the under-16 singles, winner in the under-16 doubles and runners up in the under-19 singles. It was a personal high point for me to win these trophies as it vindicated all the hours of practice and also because it was around this time that I realised that playing badminton was something I was meant to do.

Strong influences
The two people that have most influenced me as a person and as a professional are my coaches, SM Arif and later, Gopi Chandji (Pullela). As a person, I have also been influenced by the tenacity of Roger Federer.

It’s not easy to play international badminton. Performing at this level requires a lot of hard work and dedication. I practice regularly for 7 to 7.5 hours on a daily basis, which includes my stamina, strength, skill and mind training. Sundays are generally off and that is the time I have with my family and friends. Some people may say it does affect my social life as my dedication to my sport has resulted in my being a little bit cut off socially, though I do try to stay in touch. However, it is difficult because my life has generally moved between home and training academies, with some movies and restaurants thrown in. It is not something that needs to be overcome at this stage because I want to concentrate on being the best at what I can do, but perhaps there will be a time in life when I will need to devise a way (to cope with it).

Dealing with failure
I repent a lot and think about the mistakes I made and how to not make them again. Even after losing, I try to learn my lessons from the loss and work on ensuring that I do not lose in the same vein again. My effort is to continue to remain positive in the face of adversity and to look for ways to overcome the adversity rather than looking for excuses to soothe the failure.

Mantra for success
Be focused, stay dedicated and be sincere to seniors. Results will be (good) if you practice with (all your) heart — be it studies or sports. Try your best to get good results.

Saina Nehwal, CWG 2010 gold medallist and badminton champ interviewed by Pankaj Mullick