One of the most talented sportspersons and the only female player from India to attain the world number one ranking, Saina Nehwal has many other firsts to her credit. She was the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics and also the first Indian female and youngest Asian athlete to win a four-star tournament. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
With badminton growing increasingly popular in India, Saina Nehwal continues to inspire an entire generation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly called her “the darling daughter of India”. As she turns 27 today, here are a few interesting facts about this badminton sensation:
- Before taking up badminton, Saina was a champion in karate, in which she holds a brown belt.
- She has won a total of four medals in the Commonwealth Games – one gold and three bronze.
- Her parents, Harvir Singh and Usha Nehwal, were also state badminton champions in Haryana.
- Saina holds 21 international titles.
- She was one of the eight brand ambassadors at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which took place in New Delhi.
- She celebrates every win by indulging in ice cream.
- At one point in her career, Saina was the highest paid badminton player in the world, with endorsement deals worth more than a million dollars annually.
- Her elder sister, Anshu Nehwal, is a model.
- She received the Arjuna Award in 2009, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2010, and the Padma Shri in 2010.
- Her father, Harvir Singh, had to sacrifice a lot to give her the kind of training she received. He didn’t have enough money but always managed to procure it either by borrowing or taking a loan. As a result, Saina never fell short of money.
- She is the first woman badminton player to win the Asian Satellite Badminton Tournament twice.
- She has been coached by the most prolific badminton players of the country. When she began her career, she was coached by the Dronacharya Award winner SM Arif. Later, she was coached by the current Chief National Coach for the Indian badminton team, Pullela Gopichand, until 2014. Currently, she is being trained by former badminton champion and national coach, U Vimal Kumar.
- Saina Nehwal also represents her city, Hyderabad, in the Indian Badminton League.
- She wrote her autobiography, Playing to Win, to inspire people to develop an interest in sports.
Saina Nehwal’s success has taken badminton to greater heights and has inspired several girls to consider taking up the sport professionally. This could, by far, be one of her biggest contributions to the sport as well as our country.