Super Saina leads India’s rise in badminton


For a country which produces world-class athletes miserly, something revolutionary is happening in the world of badminton with world No.2 Saina Nehwal leading the Indian charge. There is a steep jump in the number of Indians competing at the highest level of the sport in the last few years, with currently three men and two women in the top 15 of the respective world rankings.

India had players like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand, current national chief coach, in the past but they were exceptions at best. Padukone won India’s first World Championships medal, a bronze, way back in 1983 after winning the prestigious All England Championships in 1980, whereas Gopichand won the All England title in 2001. Padukone even rose to the pinnacle of the sport when he was ranked No. 1 in the world badminton rankings in 1980.

But the real rise of Indian badminton in recent years can be credited to the emergence of Saina seven years ago, when as an 18-year-old she started making waves by giving tough competitions to the Chinese shuttlers who literally ruled the sport with an iron grip.

Saina brought back memories of Padukone and Gopichand when she started winning Grand Prixs and Super Series tournaments, of which she won now 16. She came into prominence in 2008 when she reached the quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympics, a first by an Indian in the sport. Earlier that year Sania also became the first to win the BWF World Junior title. Saina then became the first to win a Super Series title when she triumphed at the Indonesian Open in 2009 and also reached the quarter-finals of the World Badminton Championships in her maiden attempt that year.


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