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And the Gold goes to Saina

Mrs. Prime Minister came to see Saina Nehwal play her final match against Malaysia’s Wong Mew Choo during CWG 2010. It was the last game of the mega event. The stadium was packed to the brim. ‘India…India’,’ Jai ho’ and ‘Saina-Saina’ were the only words that could be heard echoing in all directions. And amidst the ultimate pressure, Saina Nehwal won the match and the Gold for India rallying it to the second postion in the overall medal tally.

It is really a treat to watch Saina Nehwal play. In the first round of the badminton tournaments, she won the games pretty easily and her every point win was accompanied by a faint smile. Not an arrogant one, but one that said that she knew she could beat her opponent. But as the event continued and her opponents became tougher and tougher, it was as if watching the unfurling of Saina’s stellar performance too. With every game and every point won, she clutched her fist and rejoiced. Again, not with proud arrogance,but as if to pat her own inner strength. And fist after fist, move after move, Saina conquered until it was the final match on the final day of CWG 2010.

The first game of this mega match was taken by Wong, who has never beaten Saina over the last two years but the fact that she was playing in what could be her last Commonwealth Games spurred her to end her career with a flourish. She proved especially tough when it came to long rallies, in which she beat Saina frequently. The second game too became a battle of wits with both the players snatching points from each other one after the other. There came a point of time when it looked like Saina would lose fighting. The two were 20 all and the shuttle cock could fall in anybody’s court. But then, it was world number 3 Khel Ratna Saina who was in the court. In this extremely pressuring situation, she reversed the luck back into India’s favor by winning the game 23-21.

Now the players were 1 game all and it was left to a single game that would decide who would wear gold and who silver around her neck. The game had become all the more important because earlier in the day Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa had won the women’s doubles final. Their win assured that in the final medal tally, India would be at par with England. Therefore, if Saina could win this, India had a chance to come second in the over all tally, just behind Australia.

Fighter Saina was in no resting mood. She flicked, jumped, smashed and crashed the shuttle cock in such a way that even her opponent might have felt jitters. And it surely looked that way when Wong faultered and gave 3 easy points to Saina. The margin between the girls kept increasing in India’s favour. Saina had a look in her eyes that said she was in no mood to loose in front of her home crowd. And instead of succumbing to the very pressure that a home crowd brought to such a magnanimous match, Saina Nehwal triumphed.

She won the match playing like a champion and got India a well deserved Gold. The hug with national coach Pullela Gopichand and the tears in her eyes moment after the win only conveyed further that this mean machine on court had in fact a sensitive heart of gold.

Saina Nehwal played for her country’s honour and she succeeded in doing just that – Fill every Indian’s heart with extreme honour, pride and joy.

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