Saina Nehwal is undoubtedly the current poster girl of Indian Sports. With three consecutive wins in the international badminton circuit, Saina is suddenly a name to reckon with. A name that the once indispensable Chinese badminton players cannot easily forget. She is confident, hard-working, persistent, and tough and a burning example of how dogged determination can take you places.
But the same Saina who is currently the only Indian sports women to rank World No.2 in Badminton, was once a shy, piggy tailed girl from a middle class family in Hyderabad who loved her ice-cream and watching tennis. Her mother was such a devoted fan of Steffi Graf that she even named Saina after her. She was in fact called Steffi Saina. How did the name change happen? How did the introvert Hyderbadi turn into the feisty 20 year old bowling everyone over with her grit on the badminton courts? Here are the fast facts.
• Saina Nehwal was born in Hissar, Haryana on 17 March, 1990
• Love for badminton is in her genes as both her parents were former badminton champions in Haryana.
• She moved with her parents to Hyderabad at the age of five.
• Nani Prasad Rao, the badminton coach of the Sports authority of Andhra Pradesh saw Saina play at the Nehru Stadium when she was just 8. He knew then that the girl had potential and asked her father, Harvir Singh to bring her for the summer training camp.
• The distance to the camp was 20 km but father girl duo woke up every day at 4 am in the morning to reach the stadium by 6 am, practice for two hours and then go to school.
• With evening training sessions included to her routine, Saina’s father spent Rs. 12,000 per month on Saina alone for her transportation and paraphernalia needed for the sports. Her father withdrew money from his saving’s account and provident fund to keep up with the costs.
• Saina’s mother was a fan of the german tennis star Steffi Graf and therefore had the prefix Stefi attached to Saina’s name. But Saina preferred just ‘Saina’ and with persistent efforts convinced her parents to drop the prefix.
• She was given prize money of just Rs.300 after winning the under-10 state level badminton championship in 1999.
• Her first international win was in 2003 when she won the Czechoslovakia Junior Open.
• In 2006 at the age of 16 she became the first Indian women to win a four-star world tournament, the Philippines Open.
• She is the first Indian women to reach the singles quarterfinal at the Olympics.
• Saina stunned everyone in June 2009 when she became the first Indian to win a BWF Super Series title, the most prominent badminton series of the world by winning the Indonesia Open.
• Saina has a hermit like approach to her training, not allowing anyone or anything distract her from her training schedule.
• She is the reigning under-19 national champion.
• Her coaches presently are Indonesian badminton legend Atik Jauhari and national coach Pullela Gopichand, the former All England champion.
• She is a Roger Federer fan.
• In the past 7 years she has not gone to any party, or movie hall to watch a movie.
• 2010 has been a fabulous year for her so far with three consecutive wins. The Indian Open Grand Prix Gold, Singapore Open Super Series and the Indonesia Open Super Series.
• Saina has this year been awarded with the highest national sporting award given to players –the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
It is said, success is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. Saina Nehwal proves it right.