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Saina Nehwal refutes retirement talks, does not rule out Olympics qualification

Saina Nehwal, 33, said she is struggling with injuries but doing her best to make a comeback in time for next year's Paris Olympics.

Saina Nehwal BAI Selection Trials

FILE PHOTO: Star Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal. (Photo credit: AFP)


Shourya Mehta

Updated: 13 Sep 2023 1:09 PM GMT

India’s star shuttler Saina Nehwal said she is well aware of her low chances of qualifying for the Olympic Games 2024 but she will do anything and everything possible to qualify even though she is not being completely fit.

"I get inflammation in my knee whenever I train for an hour or two. I am not able to bend my knee so a second session of training is not possible. But I am trying my level best to come back. I also don't want to play half-heartedly and results will also not come," Saina told reporters at an event in New Delhi on Wednesday, according to PTI.

The shuttler was out of sight of almost all the recent BWF World Tour events. She was last seen playing in early June in the Singapore Open where she was not able to advance to the R16, losing to Thai shuttler Ratchanok Intanon in straight games.

The 33-year-old former world no. 1 pioneered a title-winning streak for India in women’s badminton two decades ago, which was followed by another star shuttler PV Sindhu. She got the world number 1 ranking 8 years ago in 2015. The first Indian shuttler to attain that ranking, Saina's rankings have fell quite drastically in recent years. Once a world-dominating shuttler, now she is ranked 55th with 25840 points, 41 ranks behind the other top shuttler PV Sindhu.

While being asked about her retirement plans, Nehwal said, "Woh toh sab ko karna parta hai (everyone needs to someday), there is no deadline. Everyone is going to stop when you feel the body is not supporting. At the moment I am trying. As a sports person, it is my duty to try because I love the game and I have been playing for so many years."

Currently, she is laid low by a string of injuries, and a recurring knee issue is a major difficulty she is handling now. She is also facing problems with her groin and ankle, besides being diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis with mild pancreatitis in the past.

The shuttler doesn’t want to participate in any tournament, be it the Asian Games or Olympic Games half-heartedly. She expressed that her aim is not to participate but to give a better performance. She needs more practice to compete with quickly rising shuttlers such as An Se Young, Tai Tzu Ying, and Akane Yamaguchi.

The level of the game has improved exponentially in the recent past which is a great development for the sport but a bigger competition for Nehwal who is looking for a comeback after struggling from recurring injuries. One thing is for sure, she is not thinking about retiring soon, which is wonderful news for the badminton spectators.

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