Who is the first Indian Badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics?
It wasn't until very recently that India managed to win its first medal for badminton at the Olympics. Here's a look at the story and the grind behind this incredible feat by a certain someone from Hyderabad.
It wasn't until very recently that India won its first medal for badminton at the Olympics. At London 2012, it was a certain Saina Nehwal who finally broke the voodoo and laid down a marker for future shuttlers. Since then, Saina has been the face of Indian badminton for more than a decade now. Everyone knows about her achievements and success in badminton, but very few know about her struggles behind it. So, let us have a look at her journey from the fields of Hisar to the global badminton stage.
Early childhood and the love affair with badminton:
Many of them know her only as a Hyderabadi girl, but she was born in the Hisar district of Haryana to parents Harvir Singh Nehwal and Usha Rani. Both of her parents were badminton state champions. In the initial days, she was much interested in Karate but later took an interest in badminton when she accompanied her mom to the local club at Haryana.
The family moved to Hyderabad because of her father's transfer, and there she was spotted by Nani Prasad, coach of Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh. Looking at her talent at the age of 8, Nani Prasad decided to train her. Later, she started to train under SM Arif, who is an Arjuna award winner. The young girl would wake her up at 4 am and travel nearly 25kms for her training.
Role of Pullela Gopichand:
Pullela Gopichand is a popular name in the Indian badminton circuit, and he has his own academy in Hyderabad. So Saina decided to train under him at this academy. It is believed much of her success came because she decided to join this academy. So, he started training Saina, and soon she began to perform well at the junior level.
She started her junior career in the year 2004 at the age of 14, where she began winning many tournaments in the same year. She won back to back Junior National championship in 2005 and 2006.
In the year 2006, she started her senior career by winning the Senior National championship. Soon, people started recognising her, and she was representing India at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She became the first Indian shuttler to reach the quarter-finals in Olympics. In the very next Olympics at London, she won the bronze medal for India and become the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal.
Achievements from (2004-present):
2004 – Silver in commonwealth youth games at Bendigo
2006- Silver in Junior World Championship
2008- Quarter-final finish at 2008 Beijing Olympics
2009- First Indian women to win BWF super series titles
2010- Gold medal in 2010 Commonwealth games
2012- Bronze medal in 2012 London Olympics
2014- Team bronze medal in Asian Games
2015- Silver medal in World Championship held at Jakarta
2017- Bronze medal in World Championship
2018- Two gold medals in Commonwealth Games held at Gold Coast
She was awarded with Padma Bhushan in 2016, which is the nation's third-highest civilian award. Unfortunately, we cannot see the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist at Tokyo Olympics 2020 since she has not qualified for the event, because two players from the same nation can be selected only if they are in the top 16 of Race to Tokyo Rankings.