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Saturday, April 20, 2024

What was Saina thinking?

On August 4, India’s best shuttler Saina Nehwal was ‘gifted’ women’s singles bronze medal after her opponent Wang Xin, a former World No.1 and current No.2, broke down with a knee injury.  Saina’s reaction was mellow; not of a history maker.

She didn’t react the way she should have reacted. It is difficult to comprehend what was going on in her mind. There was no victory lap nor an acknowledgement of winning a medal as the 22-year-old walked away from the Wembley arena court. Her reaction was subdued and that probably summed up her state of mind: I still can’t believe that the match is over and I won a medal. I have never won a match like this before. My bronze will inspire youngsters to take up badminton.

Xin had won the first game 21-18 and she was leading in the second 1-0 when she gave up. The match could have gone either way considering Saina’s calibre. In December 2011, Saina topped Group B with a hard-fought 21-17, 22-20 victory over Wang Xin, her toughest rival, in her last league match at the BWF Super Series Finals. She had the potential to turn the table this time too.  However, Xin didn’t give her that opportunity.

A world No. 5 doesn’t deserve to win a medal in which luck had a major role to play. Walkovers are not new to sports, but a walkover that gives an Olympic medal is rare. The only Olympics walkover for a gold medal was in 1908, when Wyndham Halswelle won a rerun of the 400 metres race as the two other athletes refused to take part in the rerun. Saina’s bronze would have been golden if she had WON it.

One can debate that when it is normal to move to next round with a walkover, what’s wrong in getting a medal the same way? When a player wins a medal (Chen Jin won Singapore Open Superseries 2011 after Olympic and Asian Games gold medallist Lin Dan walkover) or qualifies for bigger events (P Kashyap qualified for Olympics after Chen Jin walkover), the victory isn’t sweet – and – the blemish that the triumph was truly ‘luck by chance’ – deprives a country from celebrating proudly. 

A well-fought defeat gives an athlete much more satisfaction than a medal by miracle. Saina has definitely created history by winning the first ever bronze in Badminton for India, but the festivities would have been grand had she beaten Xin or at least won the first game on Saturday.

When Saina’s mentor and coach Pullela Gopichand says a win is a win, he is right to some extent. We agree with him when he adds that she would have won anyway if the match had gone on in spite of Saina losing the first game. A tired and weary Xin could have lost eventually, but the eventual didn’t happen. What happened didn’t make Saina smile either.

Saina Nehwal

She lost the first game but not before giving Xin the jitters – we loved her game and yes, she did deserve a medal. She had a fair chance of making a comeback; however, we were disappointed with the way the match ended. We salute Saina for her sportsman spirit – she did not rush to celebrate but instead, chose to enquire about her opponent, hug her and leave. A walkover doesn’t demean an opponent’s achievement or puts a question mark on his/her talent. In record books, Saina Nehwal IS the bronze medal winner of London Olympics 2012, and we are proud of her achievement…

‘My bronze will inspire youngsters to take up badminton’

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