Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal is on cloud nine and it was evident from the way she presented herself before the media when she arrived in her home town after winning the bronze medal in London Olympics.
“It is an amazing feeling. When I went to London, I was confident of returning with a medal and I was able to achieve what. I started playing the game at the age of nine with this very hope of winning an Olympic medal.
“I am proud of myself that I could realise my dream,” Saina told the media at a felicitation ceremony organised in her honour at the Pullela Gopi Chand Badminton Academy at Gachibowli.
The 22-year old shuttler arrived to a rousing reception at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, along with her father Dr Harvir Singh and coach Pullela Gopi Chand.
Hundreds of her fans, co-players at the academy and other sports lovers greeted her as she came out of the airport.
She boarded an open bus arranged for her and her supporters to be taken out in a parade from the airport to the Academy, but the bus had a puncture within minutes. She was later driven to the academy in a car.
Saina, who bagged the bronze after her opponent – world No 2 Xin Wang – retired due to a knee injury, admitted that she had actually dreamt of winning gold, but was content with the bronze medal.
“I am happy that at least I have a bronze and am the first Indian to win a badminton Olympic medal. It has motivated me to be the best in the world and do better at the Rio Olympics,” she said.
Asked how she had felt standing on an Olympic podium with a medal around her neck, Saina said it was an unbelievable feeling.
“I was thinking of all the years of training and hard work I put for winning an Olympic medal,” the Hyderabadi said, adding that it was just the beginning and she would win many more medals.
She thanked all those who had contributed to her success. “It was because of their support that I grew from an ordinary girl to a champion. First I want to thank Gopi sir and then my dad, without whom I am nothing,” she said.
Saina said she had to make a lot of sacrifices but the result of all the hard work was much bigger. “There is nothing bigger than standing on the podium with an Olympic medal. That’s life for me,” she said while responding to a question as to how she plans to compensate all the sacrifices she has made to reach this stage of her career.