Defying all odds, Saina Nehwal clinched Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold Title on 22nd Jan 2017. Six months back, Saina’s dream to win an Olympic Gold ended when she suffered from career threatening knee injury at Rio Olympics. She went through knee surgery and was even unable to walk. No one thought that she will be able to be back at her best after that surgery.
After career threatening injuries, it is natural for any player to go through a phase where the mind is clouded with the thought of career being as good as over. To come out of it, requires a lot of mental strength that only champions possess, which Saina definitely has. By winning Malaysia Masters , Saina Nehwal not only silenced her critics who thought that she has passed her prime but also defeated her own demons that would have clogged her brain for last 6 months.
Saina’s emphatic comeback may be a surprise for the world but not for the people who closely followed her career. Let’s go back to 2008 to know what Saina Nehwal is made of.
When Saina Nehwal went for her first Olympics at Beijing, no one backed her to be a medal contender but she went with a belief of winning a medal for India. She won her earlier round matches and in pre-quarters she caused biggest upset in badminton at Beijing Olympics when she beat Wang in three sets. Wang was a contender for the medal and had been finalist of 2007 World Championship.
In quarterfinals, Saina was leading 11-3 in the final set but her inexperience of playing at big stage cost her the match and chance to get an Olympic medal for India. Losing from a commanding position on a big stage gives sleepless night to even champion players and some even go in depression for months. It would not have been a surprise if Saina went through same at that point of time and lost her way in coming months.
Yulianti, who defeated her in quarterfinals went on to win Bronze medal and that shows how close Saina had been to an Olympic Medal at Beijing. She was disappointed and was having doubts on whether she will ever come this close to an Olympic medal.
Like other players, she could have easily opted for sightseeing or could have stopped playing for few days to take her mind off the disappointment of the loss but that is not what she is made of. She talked about what went wrong with her coach Gopichand and was off for practice the next morning at 5 AM.
This anecdote might be seen as of no importance by those who don’t follow sports closely but those who follow it closely knows how much players are hurt after an Olympic defeat and how they find it hard to pick up sports for few days or even months.
They way Saina dealt with her Beijing Olympic loss speaks volumes of her mental strength and hunger for the success. She is not someone who will brood over past but is a firm believer to correct things for the future. She is determined to not let anything come between her and her success not even her own doubts.
She, after Beijing’s defeat, fend off every distraction and planned to win a medal in 2012 Olympics. She succeeded in her endeavour when she came back with a bronze medal from London. So, it was not a surprise when she again beat the cynicism surrounding her name and came out on top by winning Malaysia Masters.
Bravo Girl. Keep flying high.