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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Saina Nehwal ‘stronger, better’ now, badminton ace ready to fly once again

Saina Nehwal, who entered the Malaysia Masters GP Gold final on Saturday, says her comeback journey post a right knee surgery was hard but she is ready to go to the top again

other-sports Updated: Jan 21, 2017 22:07 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Saina Nehwal is the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics.
Saina Nehwal is the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics.(PTI)

Saina Nehwal has gone through a terrible time over the past one year. A right knee injury affected her performance at 2016 Rio Olympics where she lost in the group stage. It did not end there as she had to undergo a surgery and was scared she might not be able to play badminton again.

The 26-year-old Saina is, however, on a recovery path and reached her first final on Saturday since coming back from injury at the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold. The first Indian shuttler to win an Olympics medal says she feels ‘stronger, better and lighter’ now.

“I have never had to undergo surgery in my career before. This was the first time that the doctor told me that I have to undergo a knee surgery. It happened during the Olympics, I was so scared. Will I be able to play again or not? That moment was very sad,” Saina told badminton’s world body.

“The one thing I had to work on was to get my strength back, which you lose after a surgery. He worked on my weaker areas; when I train now, it feels easier for me because all the areas were covered up very well. I feel stronger, better and lighter on the court.”

Thinking about future

After winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the 2016 Games turned out to be a disaster for Saina. But she doesn’t want to dwell in the past.

“I started (preparations for Rio) really well with a couple of semi-final appearances. I won the Australian Open in June and I was feeling quite good and confident. From there, it was time to prepare for the Olympics. I was preparing well until one fine day there some pain in my knee, which made it unbearable,” she said.

“I got to know that it was a bone spur in my knee and it had to be removed. It was a very emotional year for me. I could have won the Olympic medal for the second time but maybe it was not destined to be. I have to forget about the past and think about the future. Maybe next time I can do much better.”

Scared after surgery

The recovery path was never easy for Saina and she had doubts about making a successful comeback.

“I was thinking if I was able to come back after that surgery, how much time it’s going to take me, so there were a lot of doubts in my mind. I was mentally not prepared for it at all. I was crying in front of my parents and my coaches. It was going to be tough for me to come out of the surgery,” she said.

“Then I met my physiotherapist who said he will me get back in two to three months. He told me to believe in myself and stay positive.”

Though Saina is fit now, she wants to take go a notch higher. “The game is very fast, it’s an aggressive sport. Badminton is the sort where you don’t have time to think in between. It’s not easy at this level when you are playing against the best players in the world,” she said.

“You have to be at your best fitness every time you play at the highest level because everyone wants to win. The opponents and their coaches will be giving their 100 percent and I have to do the same thing. Of course, there has been a lot of input from my coaches and trainers. I hope to be fitter and win more titles.”

First Published: Jan 21, 2017 20:44 IST

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