Move over Sania Mirza, its the time to welcome Saina Nehwal – the new torchbearer of women in Indian sports. Sania is Muslim, rose from a place where it is considered dreadful for girls to even work lest play tennis around the world with short skirts, became an inspiration for a generation of Indians and also stole a billion hearts with her good looks. But after her marriage, everyone wondered as to where the next torchbearer of women in Indian sports would come from. But over the last 2-3 years, Saina has risen the ranks in badminton at breakneck speed to reach the number 3 position in the world today.
For the uninitiated, Saina was born in Hisar, Haryana but has spent her entire life in Hyderabad. Both her parents were badminton champions in Haryana. In 1998, when she was only 8 years old, she used to go for practice getting up at 4am and travelling 25km to the stadium. 50km up and down everyday became a really difficult proposition. Therefore, in 1999 her parents decided to move closer to the stadium. But then the cost of her training and equipment went up miraculously and her parents had to draw all the reserves to pay for her training. As her rankings and game improved, the sponsorships from Yonex, BPCL and Mittal Champions Trust started pouring in.
She started winning junior tournaments left, right and center from 2002 onwards. In 2006, she burst upon the international scene when she won the four star Philippines Open entering the tournament as the 86th seed. From then on, she has many firsts to her credit. She became the first Indian girl to reach the quarterfinals of the Olympics and then went on to win three Super Series titles back to back while no Indian had won even one.
In a game dominated by the Chinese, Saina has sizzled like no other. If she keeps her head on her shoulders in this way, she could well create many more flutters in the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to be held this year and for many more years to come.
The number 1 ranking is within your reach Saina! You deserve it!!