Spare Saina the intense pressure

While India’s sports lovers are left wondering how on earth tennis stalwart Mahesh Bhupathi could refuse an opportunity to represent his country at the London Olympics, the news of badminton star Saina Nehwal emerging triumphant in her last tournament before the Olympics has given us some reason to smile.

The Chinese are Saina’s biggest threat to her gold medal ambition, so to beat China’s Li Xuerui for glory at the Indonesia Open Super Series in Jakarta on Sunday was extra special.

Although Saina has been guilty of inconsistency, there is no doubt that she is the best thing to have happened to Indian badminton. In her career, she has seen off the most destructive of opponents and that puts her first in the list of India’s gold medal aspirants.

Her potential notwithstanding, Saina could now be under immense pressure to realise the dream of being India’s first Olympic gold medallist in her sport. But the media and badminton public can help the shining star by not reaching out for the pressure tap. Sure, there will be the media glare that will only intensify before the Olympic Games, but there shouldn’t be relentless pressure which will have an adverse effect on the player. Saina’s got a great chance in London, but anything can happen in sport and there must be some level of acceptance in reacting to isappointment.

The Hyderabad-based girl deserves all her success. One of her greatest qualities is her willingness to train extremely hard, something which does not come naturally to sports persons from India. Her coach P Gopichand has played a key role in her success and he’ll keep her grounded for sure.

Saina must be backed for an Olympic gold, but the pundits need to back off in some ways.

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