Kumar, who along with Dipankar Bhattacharjee and Madhumita Bisht represented the country in its maiden Olympics appearance at the 1992 Barcelona Games, marked World No 5 Saina Nehwal as Indian badminton’s best bet to achieve a podium finish at Wembley Arena (the badminton venue of the London Games).
“Badminton was never promoted well in India. But now the game has grown and I feel that we do have a chance to win a medal at London Olympics. It will be interesting to see how Saina fares. She has beaten the best players. Her fitness has improved. Saina will be seeded, and that will ensure she won’t run into the top players in the opening round,” Kumar told MiD DAY from Bangalore yesterday. The five-member badminton team consists of Nehwal, P Kashyap, Jwala Gutta, Ashwini Ponappa and V Diju.
Kumar, who was ranked World No 17 in his heydays, had suffered a first round exit in his only Olympics appearance in 1992, got nostalgic when reminiscing about his time in Barcelona. “I had taken part in the Commonwealth and Asian Games before, but the Olympics was completely different. We watched some of the athletics events. Carl Lewis was dropped from the US team for the 100 metres, but was later included in the relay team, and helped them win the gold. Also we were in the dining area and former World No 1 German tennis star Steffi Graf came and sat opposite us. That was a great experience,” said Kumar.