Games & medals
Rio de Janeiro 2016
Saina NEHWAL biography
Saina Nehwal is the first-ever badminton player from India to clinch an Olympic medal. The Indian shuttler created history when she won the bronze medal at the London 2012 Games.
The Haryana shuttler started turning heads very early on in her career when she won the BWF World Junior Championships in 2008. The same year she made her first Olympics appearance in Beijing, but it was only at London 2012 that she gained worldwide fame.
Born on the 17th March 1990, Saina Nehwal started playing badminton at the age of eight after her family moved from Haryana to Hyderabad. Her initiation into the game was primarily because she didn’t know the local language well and she wanted to further the dream of her mother, who was a state-level badminton player herself. The Indian shuttler successfully did that by representing India at the highest level in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics.
En route to becoming the first Indian woman to reach the last eight of Olympic quarter-finals, a young Saina Nehwal defeated the then world number five Wang Chen of Hong Kong before losing to Indonesia's Maria Kristin Yulianti in the quarter-finals of Beijing 2008.
The promise that a 20-year-old Saina Nehwal showed was hugely applauded back home as she was conferred with the Arjuna award in 2009 and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2010.
Nehwal's confidence was now flourishing as she began to establish herself on the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Tour. On the back of her Beijing 2008 experience, titles began to fall her way.
Her first was at the Indonesian Open in 2009 when she became the first Indian ever to win a BWF Super Series event.
More success quickly followed, as she won the India Open, the Singapore Open and defended her Indonesian Open crown in 2010.
That year also saw a very special Commonwealth Games gold, as Nehwal fought back from match point down against Malaysia's Wong Mew Choo to reach the top of the podium in New Delhi.
Under the tutelage of legendary coach Pullela Gopichand, a 22-year-old Saina Nehwal then wrote a new chapter in Indian badminton at the London 2012 Olympics.
Seeded fourth for the Games, Nehwal beat Netherlands’ Jie Yao and Denmark’s Tine Baun to reach the semi-finals.
However, her top-seeded opponent in the last four was China's Wang Yihan, who completed a straight games win.
That set up a play-off against another Chinese opponent, Wang Xin, for the bronze medal. Their encounter though would be a curtailed one as Wang was forced to retire through injury at the start of the second game. Nehwal had secured India's first Olympic badminton medal.
Returning home a hero, Nehwal's burgeoning reputation was enhanced over the coming years as she went on to win the Australian Open twice, the India Open and the China Open over the next three years.
By now, there was another Indian player on the BWF women's singles tour as PV Sindhu began to make a name for herself - Nehwal defeating her in the final of the 2014 India Open in their first ever meeting.
Nehwal also began working with a new coach, as Vimal Kumar stepped in and helped guide her to a new career landmark.
In April 2015, Nehwal became the number one ranked player in the world, the first ever Indian to have reached the top spot.
She also reached the final of the prestigious All England Open, losing to Spain's Olympic champion Carolina Marin.
From that point, Nehwal would suffer a dip in form and a series of niggling injuries, but after teaming up with old coach Pullela Gopichand once again there was cause for further celebration.
At the Commonwealth Games in 2018, Nehwal defeated PV Sindhu in the gold medal match to claim her second title, eight years after her first.
Added to this later in the year was an Asian Games bronze, losing at the semi final stage to eventual winner Tai Tzu-ying.
The same year saw a huge development on the personal front too, as Nehwal married fellow badminton Parupalli Kashyap in a private ceremony in Hyderabad.
Nehwal's husband is also vying for a singles place at the Tokyo Olympics - a Games that will most likely be the final one of her career if she is to qualify.
Troubled by illness and injury over the last couple of seasons, Nehwal nevertheless boasts an incredible array of accomplishments.
In her 12-year-long badminton career, Saina Nehwal has won over 24 international titles, eleven of which are Superseries titles.
She is also the only Indian to have won at least one medal in every BWF major - the World Championships, the World Junior Championships - and that most precious bronze medal at the Olympics.