The last few months have been an eventful period in Saina Nehwal’s life. The Indian had to contend with a knee problem that derailed her Olympic hopes; surgery followed and she recovered quicker than she expected. There were developments off-court as well: she was named a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and an Integrity Ambassador for BWF’s i am badminton campaign. In this talk with Badminton Unlimited, Nehwal talks of the recent ups and downs and her hopes for the future:
On the injury
I started (preparations for Rio) really well with a couple of semi-final appearances. I won the Australian Open in June and I was feeling quite good and confident.
From there, it was time to prepare for the Olympics. I was preparing well until one fine day there some pain in my knee, which made it unbearable.
I got to know that it was a bone spur in my knee and it had to be removed. It was a very emotional year for me. I could have won the Olympic medal for the second time but maybe it was not destined to be. I have to forget about the past and think about the future. Maybe next time I can do much better.
I have never had to undergo surgery in my career before. This was the first time that the doctor told me that I have to undergo a knee surgery.
I was thinking if I was able to come back after that surgery, how much time it’s going to take me, so there were a lot of doubts in my mind.
It happened during the Olympics, I was so scared. Will I be able to play again or not? That moment was very sad. I was mentally not prepared for it at all. I was crying in front of my parents and my coaches. It was going to be tough for me to come out of the surgery.
Rehabilitation and comeback
Then I met my physiotherapist who said he will me get back in two to three months. He told me to believe in myself and stay positive.
The one thing I had to work on was to get my strength back, which you lose after a surgery. He worked on my weaker areas; when I train now, it feels easier for me because all the areas were covered up very well. I feel stronger, better and lighter on the court.
Selection to Athletes’ Commission
It’s such a huge honour and it’s rare for an Indian player to get that kind of honour. It’s a very big responsibility; it’s not going to be easy because I’m also playing at the highest level so I need to give 100 percent to the sport as well. But I have to spend a lot of time in this initiative because I have to discuss with the Commission about the sport, how to improve it, the problems of the players and the different sports. There are a lot of things involved in the Athletes’ Commission so it’s not only going to be my work, it has to be some people around me who’re going to support me and help me out with this.
BWF’s Integrity Campaign
It’s a huge honour again to be part of i am badminton and I am very blessed to be part of that initiative. I will be there for players who want to be honest with themselves and to help my sport stay clean from doping issues.
I’m going to promote it in a big way. Such an initiative happening in the BWF is very good as it provides more awareness regarding doping issues.
There are five to six of us in this initiative and I hope all of us do a good job by promoting it.
Hopes for the future
The game is very fast, it’s an aggressive sport. Badminton is the sort where you don’t have time to think in between. It’s not easy at this level when you are playing against the best players in the world. You have to be at your best fitness every time you play at the highest level because everyone wants to win. The opponents and their coaches will be giving their 100 percent and I have to do the same thing. Of course, there has been a lot of input from my coaches and trainers. I hope to be fitter and win more titles.