New Delhi: The lone Indian to challenge the Chinese domination in badminton, Saina Nehwal, is hoping that her London Olympics bronze medal will inspire at least half a dozen more to join her at the top level and be a threat to the traditional powerhouse.
"I want more players to come from India because I want to make it like China where you have 5-6 players dominating and I want something like that in India as well. Sometimes we are playing against 11 Chinese, they have to come up with one strategy but I have to come up with so many," Saina told PTI in an interview.
The 22-year-old earned India its first Olympic medal in badminton when she clinched the bronze at the Wembley Arena in London last week.
The 22-year-old earned India its first Olympic medal in badminton when she clinched the bronze last week.
But her shocking quarter-finals defeat in her maiden appearance at the mega-event in Beijing four years ago, still rankles Saina.
"I am very happy that I won a medal but I can't forget that match (Beijing). It is very difficult to forget that because I could have reached the semifinals in my first attempt and I lost it. Losing in Beijing was disheartening, it was an easy match but I made it difficult," Saina told PTI on Sunday.
Saina had lost in the quarter-finals of the Beijing Games despite enjoying an 11-3 lead against Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti. But she made up for that when she was adjudged winner after a knee injury forced world number two Xin Wang of China to forfeit her bronze medal play-off match.
Asked about the transition she went through in these four years, Saina said, "I don't take pressure now because I have played so many tournaments. I have also matured as a player, not to give up easily and fight for each point. Before I used to feel pressure but now I am very much Okay with it."
"I was not going in a very good phase during the India Open and ABC last year but I won the Thailand Open and Indonesia Open, so if I would not have got over the pressure, I would not have won these title, so I am okay with it now," Saina added.
Saina said ever since she took to the sport, he only aim was to get an Olympic medal.
"I wanted to win an Olympic medal at the age of nine. I wanted the feeling of podium, the medal and finally when I got the medal round the neck, I was on the podium and everything was going like I wanted. It was extremely emotional. I started thinking about the last 13 years of my hard work and I started crying," she said.
Asked if she is already thinking about the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Saina said: "Rio is still not on my mind, four years is too far off. I am just thinking about the coming tournaments in the next few months. I have to make myself more fitter and stronger.
"It is obviously a dream to play next Olympics. It is not easy to be at the top. I hope that I would be in good shape in the next few years," she said.
Rather, she is more focussed on her immediate targets.
"My immediate targets are China and Japan, but let's see when and how I start training and if I am able to compete, I will give it a try. Hong Kong and Super Series Final are also there but let's see," she said.
Such has been Saina's urge to triumph in the Olympics, that the thought of winning the prestigious All England and World Championship never crossed her mind.
"My dream was only to win an Olympic medal. It was never All England or World Championship. If God gives me these two titles, I will be very grateful. But that was never in my mind. I want to do well in each and every tournament," she said.
Saina admitted that she endured self-doubt, which she eventually overcame.
"It comes to your mind (fear of losing). Sometimes when you lose a match, you feel my God I have lost the match why should I play. But it is okay, it is part of the sport," she said.
"Sometimes you feel why do you have to train harder and why do you put more effort. It is natural. But I did overcome that and I have such a great system and support around me. I am very lucky to have such a great team around me," she said.