Dubai: The recent news of Indian badminton diva Saina Nehwal getting married to longtime fiance Parupalli Kashyap must have been a heartening one for her fans, but it does not mean she has got any plans of slowing down. The Tokyo Olympics, which is still nearly two years away, is very much on her radar and even though she will be 30 around that time — Nehwal is planning to have a go at it.
“Yes, I am aware that I will not get any younger but with hard work and self belief, I think I am capable of giving a good show in the next Olympics. During my career, I have been often unlucky to miss out on big wins or struck with injuries but have managed to come back. My attitude will be the same towards that goal,” Nehwal told Gulf News in an email interview from Denmark, where she went down to top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying in the final on Sunday.
Life on the BWF Tour in badminton can also be an unforgiving one as come Tuesday, the likes of Saina, PV Sindhu and defending champion Kidambi Srikanth will be plunging headlong at the French Open. It had been an year of so-year-yet-so-far for Nehwal, who has now lost four finals — the previous ones being Indonesia Masters, All England Championships and Jakarta Asian Games; but she looks a far stronger player since recovering from that career-threatening injury at the Rio Olympics.
The news of Nehwal’s courtship with Kashyap, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2014, was acknowledged by her in early October with December 16 being their date of marriage. “We have had very limited time available because of the PBL and other tournaments on the BWF calendar and hence wanted to use this lean period,” the former world No 1 responded at the mandatory congratulations.
This year marks a decade since Nehwal, an Olympic bronze medallist, signalled her arrival by being a surprise entry to the quarter finals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The arrival of Sindhu made badminton one of the most happening sports in India over the last five years or so, but Nehwal’s stature as the one who had been there and done that holds — inspiring Bollywood to invest in an biopic on her like a Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Mary Kom. “The sports biopics are quite well made and I hope that the one being made on me can inspire a few more players from India and give a boost to sport in general,” she said.
The ordeal for Nehwal in the post-Rio phase was a tough one, when she had to go under the surgeon’s knife while the country was celebrating the silver lining in Sindhu’s success. The arthroscopy on her right knee was performed by Dr Dinshaw Perdiwala, Head of Arthroscopy in Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, following which she embarked on a long road to recovery.
The change of fortunes started showing when early last year, Nehwal relocated her training base to Hyderabad once again under Pulella Gopichand — her original mentor. Asked if moving back to Gopichand from Vimal Kumar, under whose guidance Saina became the world No 1, made any difference, Nehwal chose to be politically correct. “Both are excellent and world class coaches. Indian badminton is blessed to have them and more kids can look to benefit from them by joining the sport,” she said.
Finally, is the relationship between her and Sindhu all about healthy rivalry? “Yes, it’s that of a healthy rivalry and very motivating for the improvement of the sport in India,” Nehwal shot back.