London Olympics 2012: Saina Nehwal should settle for nothing less than gold

By Suyash Srivastava | Updated: Jul 31, 2012, 03:03 AM IST

In a country where cricket is a religion, it needs someone very special to be a crowd puller for a badminton game. Since cricket is not a part of Olympics, the Indian fans are taking keen interest in badminton as Saina Nehwal continues to be one of India’s top medal hopeful.<br><br>
We all know India’s history at the Olympics and thus it gives immense pleasure to have a player who’s every move is being monitored by the Chinese as they know if there is someone who is a real threat for them, its Saina Nehwal. The ace shuttler hit the form just at the right time with her recent victories in the Thailand Open and Indonesia Open Super Series.<br><br>The 22-year-old stunned the Chinese when she defeated Li Xuerui in the final of the Indonesia Open. Li was ranked fourth in the world at that time, and she was arguably on top of her form this year, as she had outclassed reigning world champion and compatriot Yihan Wang on three occasions.<br><br>
At such a young age, Saina has brought several laurels for the country and she is one of those sportspersons who can definitely make the country proud at the London Olympics. She is also very emotional, but that doesn’t reflect her game when she hits the badminton court.<br><br>
Ahead of the Olympics, Saina had inspired her fellow shuttlers who were determined to prove a point. India came to the Olympics this year, with the largest ever badminton contingent at the Games - comprising five players.<br><br>She is a brown belt in Karate and her determination to deliver 100% every time she enters the court is something that differentiates Saina from the rest of the Indian athletes. It’s not that she wasn’t a determined athlete in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics. She is equally serious about her sport, for which she has sacrificed a lot as a teen.<br><br>In order to be physically stronger, she turned non-vegetarian in 2006. She decided to do so when her coach and mentor Gopichand told her that she needs a better stamina to compete against Chinese opponents.<br><br>Of late, she has lost 5 kg to be physically fit in order to compete with Chinese shuttlers. With the kind of hard work she has put in, there is no reason why the Chinese shouldn’t be bothered about her phenomenal rise with time.<br><br>There can’t be a better example of how Saina has worried the Chinese as they surprisingly dropped world No.4 Wang Shixian for 21-year-old Li Xuerui from their badminton squad for the 2012 Olympics.<br><br>While the reigning world champion Wang Yihan and World No. 2 Wang Xin were unanimously chosen to represent China at the Olympics entirely on merit, Xuerui bagged her ticket as the officials considered her formidable performances against Saina Nehwal in the recent times.<br><br>The 22-year-old kicked off her Olympic campaign in style as she decimated Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland 21-9, 21-4 in straight games in the first match. In the second match against Belgium opponent Lianne Tan, the 22-year-old cruised to victory within no time.<br><br>
It was pleasing to see how she controlled her emotions in the second match. Saina won the match and left the court as if she had beaten one of her opponents during one of her routine practice matches in Hyderabad. There were no celebrations. Maybe because she didn’t play too good in the second game. Maybe because she knew it would be an easy match. Or maybe because she is saving all her enthusiasm for big matches, needless to say, against the Chinese.<br><br>When badminton was introduced in Olympics at the 1992 Barcelona Games, medal from the Indian shuttlers was not even a reality. Things have changed since then and the same can’t be said for the 2012 London Games as Saina has raised the bar to a great extent. Her extraordinary rise in the recent years has made her one of the most respected woman athletes in India.<br><br>Ahead of the Independence Day, August 4 is a very special day for India at the London Olympics. The badminton women’s singles medalists will be decided on the day. As we have seen so far, Saina hasn’t showed any emotions whatsoever.<br><br>We all would love to see an emotional Saina waving from the podium. Fingers crossed.