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India's Rio 2016 Dreams: If Fit, Saina Nehwal a Bright Medal Prospect

File photo of Saina Nehwal. (Getty Images)

File photo of Saina Nehwal. (Getty Images)

Rio is likely to witness the best of Saina at the Olympics, provided she can stay at the top of her fitness.

New Delhi: Saina Nehwal wouldn't have thought in her wildest of dreams that her maiden Olympic medal - a bronze at London 2012 - will bounce off Wang Xin down on the court writhing in pain and eventually forfeiting the match. Saina's script must have had a few fist pumps and leaps of joy after the final point. But it was an anti-climax; and though history books will always have it as 'Saina Nehwal - Women's Singles Badminton Bronze at London 2012', she will want the colour to change and the script to end on a hard-fought winning note at Rio 2016.

But all those dreams for the 26-year-old coming true will ride on one important aspect - her fitness levels.

After her historic feat of becoming the world No. 1 in April 2015, Saina's career graph had valleys and peaks spread in equal measure, hitting the deepest point at the end of 2015 when her movements got severely restricted due to pelvic and Achilles tendon injuries.

The Hyderabadi had to to pull out every resource from within to stage recovery and get back on her feet to keep her Rio hopes alive.

After appearance in the finals of All England Open and the World Championships in Jakarta, Saina's recovery reached its fruition with the Australian Open title in June this year, which put India's first woman to win Commonwealth Games gold on her way to Rio.

What gives Saina and her fans heart is that she defeated long-time rivals Ratchanok Intanon and Wang Yihan on her way to winning the Australian Open, and she will have to overthrow the same opponents in Rio to stay on course for another Olympic medal.

At 26, Rio could be Saina's last best chance to win another Olympic medal. Four years from now in Tokyo, at 30, she won't be able to put up as stern a challenge as now, though reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui will take some beating to be displaced from her pedestal in Brazil's carnival city.

The experience front is not a worry for three-time Indonesia Open winner, who will be appearing in her third Olympics since making her Games' debut at Beijing 2008. She will be well aware that winning an Olympic medal requires relentless consistency until you cross the final hurdle. In that respect, her recent learning from the defeats in the All England and World Championships finals could be a handy guide.

Injuries apart, Sania seems to have benefited from switching coaches, having parted ways with Pulela Gopichand and moving to the academy of Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru. But India won't be thinking on those lines, or bother at all, as long as a medal falls in its kitty off Saina's racquet.

In Beijing she was a rookie Olympian and in London she was slightly lucky to return with a medal after being down in the bronze-medal match, but having regained full fitness and experience on her side, Rio is likely to witness the best of fifth-seeded Saina.

She just needs to stay at the top of her fitness.

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