Hyderabad: Indian shuttle queen Saina Nehwal returned here to a rousing welcome after her historic exploits at the London Olympic Games and said though it was her dream to win a gold, she was happy to come back with a bronze.
"It's just unbelievable, I am speechless. I am happy that I actually did what I promised and believed in. It is a dream to win gold, but I am happy that at least I have a bronze and am the first Indian to win a badminton Olympic medal," Saina, flanked by her coach Pullela Gpichand and father Harvir, said at a press conference after arriving from London.
However, the 22-year-old badminton star promised that she would not rest on her laurels and strive to bring home more and more medals in the future. "When I was standing on podium, I started crying. I thought of all the hard work I have put in all these years. It gave me inspiration. It's just the beginning and I will win many more medals," she said.
When asked how it feels, having a historic Olympic medal around her neck, she said, "From outside, I am normal and Gopi sir is normal, but inside I am jumping with joy."
Saina also did not forget to mention about the people, who have all contributed in her success story. "I was an ordinary girl but because of many people, I am a champion today. First I want to thank Gopi sir, then my dad, without whom I am nothing. The co-players who have played with me and all those who congratulated me."
She said she has promised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that next time she would return with a gold medal. "PM Sir and Sonia [Gandhi] Madam also congratulated me. He said, 'We expected gold but happy that you won bronze.' I promised him that I will go for it [gold]," said Saina.
Saina said she has made a lot of sacrifices but the result of all the hard work is much bigger. "There is nothing bigger than standing on the podium with an Olympic medal. That's life for me," she said while responding to a question as to how she plans to compensate all the sacrifices she has made to reach this stage of her career.
Asked how she looked at her future, she said, "It depends [on] how you progress. I played a 33-year-old [Tine Baun of Denmark] in London [in the quarter-finals]. As long as I am winning, I will continue."
Although the game of badminton brought only one medal from the London Games, Saina said that the Indian players are fast becoming a force to reckon with. "Last time [Beijing Games] I played in the quarter-finals; this time I have a bronze. Kashyap played in the quarter-finals, Jwala [Gutta] and V Diju played good matches. I think the team is getting strong for the next Olympics," she said.
The bronze medal for Saina came under fortuitous circumstances when the world No. 2 Chinese Xin Wang conceded the tie because of a knee injury just at the start of the second game, giving India its first ever Olympic medal in badminton.
Saina was trailing 18-21, 0-1 when Wang conceded the match.
Apart from Saina's bronze winning moment, another quiet and shy player Parupalli Kashyap also made an impression by becoming the first Indian male shuttler to reach the quarter-finals stage of the Olympics Games.
The other shuttlers - Jwala, Diju and Ashwini Ponnappa - did not really make much of an impression failing to make it to the quarter-final knock-out stage in their respective team events.