Standing cut above the crowd in India and internationally, India badminton player Saina Nehwal turns 31 today! The shuttler has been through thick and thin to achieve the status she has carved for herself and the list of laurels and awards speak for themselves. Hailing from Hisar, Haryana, Saina’s family passed on the badminton traits onto her as her mother was a state-level badminton player.
From representing India at the Olympics to the BWF World Championships to being the first woman badminton player to be ranked No. 1 in the world, Saina has achieved it all. The shuttler currently has her eyes on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and will aim not to come back empty handed.
On Saina’s 31st birthday, we look at the greatest achievements in the sport of Badminton.
Commonwealth Games (2010) – Gold
“Saina, Saina, Saina”, the chants kept getting louder and louder at the Siri Fort Complex in New Delhi. The Indian shuttler reached the finals of the 2010 Commonwealth Games singles event where she faced Malaysia’s Mew Choo Wong. While Saina was favourite, given the winning run and the home crowd to back her up, the shuttler lost the first round of the final 19-21. However, Saina did not lose focus and found a resolve to get back on track. From quick thinking to unexpected smashes, Saina went on to beat Wong 19-21, 23-21, 21-13 to win the gold medal. On winning, she became the first Indian woman to win gold in a singles event in the Commonwealth Games.
London Olympics (2012) – Bronze
Scripting history once again, she reached the semi-final round of the 2012 London Olympics and clinched the bronze medal in the badminton singles event. In doing so, Saina became the first Indian to win a medal in Badminton in the Olympics. Saina eased past the group stages but faced stiff competition on meeting China’s Wang Yihan in the semi-final round. Yihan handed Sana a 21-13, 21-13 loss, however, Saina went on to win the bronze medal as Wang pulled out of the competition due to an injury, which saw Saina clinch the bronze medal and create history.
China Open (2014) – Gold
On a winning spree, Saina entered the China Open Superseries after winning the Syed Modi International Grand Prix and the Australian Super Series in 2014 and being in great form. Easing past the group stages, Saina reached the China Open final and faced Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi. It is recorded that the summit clash lasted for 42 minutes, in the first game, Saina was trailing, however, known for her bounce-back abilities, Saina went on to win the China Open Super Series 21-12, 22-20.
All-England Open Badminton Championships (2015) – Silver
One series which mostly slipped away, given the great form Saina was in, the Indian shuttler had the chance to break the bad spell. The last Indian to win a medal in the All England Open was back in 2001, when Puella Gopichand won the finals. However, since then, no Indian was able to emulate Gopichand’s feat. Saina proved herself as a strong contender for the finals and did reach the summit clash as she faced Spain’s Carolina Marin, who was hailed as one of the upcoming stars in the sport. Saina won the first game 21-16 against the Spaniard, however, the pressure got to the Indian shuttler as Marin bounced back to win the second round 21-14 and went on to win the third round by a resounding 21-7. Saina had to settle for silver, but nevertheless, Saina went on to banish the ghost of the All-England Championships and leave her mark in the series.
Commonwealth Games Gold Coast (2018) – Gold
In an all Indian final, Saina Nehwal faced PV Sindhu in the singles final of the Commonwealth Games in 2018. In a match for the ages, facing her own compatriot in the finals, for Saina, it was getting out of Sindhu’s shadow as the youngster was one of the upcoming stars ever since the 2016 Olympics where Sindhu won the silver medal. It was the experience that paid off in the end as Saina beat Sindhu 21-18, 23-21 to win the gold medal and regain the spot which she was eagerly fighting for.
With her eyes now set on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Saina will aim to once again make an impact and establish her mark in the grandest stage in the world.
Here’s wishing Saina Nehwal a Happy Birthday!