''Speechless' Saina promises more to come
The enormity of her achievement has gradually started sinking in, but, for Saina Nehwal, standing on the podium and receiving an Olympic medal, still feels like a dream.
The Indian badminton queen returned home to a rousing reception following her historic feat at the London Games, where she won a bronze.
"It's just unbelievable, I am speechless. I am happy that I actually did what I promised and believed in. It is a dream to win gold, but I am happy that at least I have a bronze and am first Indian to win a badminton Olympic medal," Saina, flanked by her coach Pullela Gpichand and father Harvir, said on arriving from London.
Asked how it feels to have won an Olympic medal, she said, "From outside, I am normal, and Gopi sir is normal, but inside I am jumping with joy."
Photographs: Michael Regan/Getty Images
'All the hard work I put in all these years gave me inspiration'
The 22-year-old Hyderabadi said the success story has just started and more is still to be achieved.
"When I was standing on the podium, I started crying. I thought of all the hard work I have put in all these years. It gave me inspiration. It's just the beginning and I will win many more medals," she said.
Saina also did not forget to mention people who contributed to her success.
"I was an ordinary girl, but because of many people I am a champion today. First, I want to thank Gopi sir, then my dad, without whom I am nothing and my co-players.
I also thank all those who congratulated me; PM (Manmohan Singh) Sir and Sonia (Gandhi) Madam also congratulated me. The PM said, 'We expected gold, but happy that you won bronze'. I promised him that I will go for it (gold)," she said.
Photographs: Saurabh Das/AP
'The team is getting strong for the next Olympics'
Saina said she made a lot of sacrifices but the result of all the hard work is 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 on how she plans to compensate for all the sacrifices she made to reach this stage of her career.
Asked how she viewed her future, she said, "It depends how you progress. I played a 33-year old (Tine Baun of Denmark) in London (in the quarter-finals). As long as I am winning, I will continue."
Although the game of badminton brought only one medal from the London Games, Saina said Indian players are fast becoming a force to reckon with.
"Last time (Beijing Games) I played the quarter-finals; this time I have a bronze. Kashyap played the quarter-finals; Jwala and V Diju played a good match. I think the team is getting strong for the next Olympics," she said.
Photographs: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters