"Saina Nehwal is looking at completing her rehab programme properly"
Coach Vimal Kumar says Saina Nehwal's focus is only on a thorough rehab programme to get her strength back after the former World No 1 made an early exit from Rio due to injury
On Friday night in Rio when Pusarla Venkata Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal at the Olympics, another Indian star - Saina Nehwal - was in a hospital bed in Hyderabad.
Saina made a Group stage exit in Rio, losing to World No 61 Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in straight games. All predictions and calculations went topsy-turvy. While some had relied on the established to attain glory on the biggest international stage, another inconsistent shuttler Sindhu unleashed her prowess and posed a serious threat to World No 1, Carolina Marin during the gold medal match.
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For a few hours, Hindustan turned into Sindhustan when Sindhu picked up the silver metal. While the Hyderabadi lass became a national hero overnight, Saina, thanks to an injury she picked up during a training session just 10 days before the Rio Olympics, had to undergo surgery on her right knee at a Mumbai hospital on Saturday. Saina will be out of action in the Japan, Korean, Danish and French tournaments, but coach Vimal Kumar is targeting the China and Hong Kong Opens in November.
"For the next three months we are not looking at titles. She is looking at completing her rehab programme properly, get her strength back and make a comeback," Saina's coach Vimal Kumar told mid-day yesterday. "The injury was unfortunate for Saina. She tried her best, but it came all of a sudden. The rehab programme is most crucial right now and how seriously she takes it will be very important in her comeback bid. Strength will be the key here. To get her strokes back won't take less than a week," he added.
The seven-week rehab programme will begin after two weeks of rest. A small portion of Saina's right kneecap broke and that caused fat pad impingement, causing pain and inflammation. The injury aggravated in Rio and this was the cause of her early exit.
However, during the training session before the quadrennial event, Saina was unable to gauge the seriousness of the situation and thought she could pull it off with just painkillers.
"I thought she looked quite good before Rio. In the first week of August she consulted a doctor and he said it was a 'fat pad inflammation.' We thought a few days of rest should do. But after reaching Rio on August 7 she was in great discomfort. She thought she could take a painkiller. She was mentally prepared but the pain was
really bad," the former national coach explained.
Sports Scientist and EQ trainer Shayamal Vallabhjee, who worked with Saina at the Prakash Padukone Academy early this year, says:
"The most important thing is how quickly Saina Nehwal can get to supreme fitness. She will have to trust that knee and that leg 110 per cent. When she goes out there she will have to trust her body in the same way she did when she was at her peak.
She needs to push herself physically. She doesn't need to worry about a comeback or the World No 1 rank because she knows what it takes to go to the top. It is easier for her to go to No 1 than for Sindhu because Saina has walked that road. Saina should believe in the process and just needs to replicate it."
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