Hailing from a generation that has seen the popularity of badminton grow in India, doubles ace Chirag Shetty believes that the change in outlook towards the game has been largely due to Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu winning medals at the Olympics.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Premier Badminton League, Chirag Shetty credited the two Olympic triumphs in helping change the perception towards the sport in the country.
“Badminton is currently the second most popular sport in the country after cricket. The meteoric rise of the sport is courtesy of the medals won by Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu at the Olympics,” he said.
While the Olympic success has definitely helped in bringing badminton to the forefront in India, one of the heartening aspects is the rise in youngsters taking up the game at a professional level. AndChirag Shetty was of the opinion that it was largely due to the motivation that Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu’s wins brought along.
“They have been the biggest motivation which the sport in our country needed and now everyone who wants to take up badminton professionally believes that it is possible,” he said.
Playing her second Olympic Games at London 2012, Saina Nehwal went on to become the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal with her bronze-medal finish at the Wembley arena.
Saina Nehwal’s maiden triumph
The former world number one, Saina Nehwal, barely put a foot wrong at the 2012 Olympic Games as she went about her business in a dominant manner to make it into the semi-finals without dropping a game.
Though she couldn’t get past the former world champion Wang Yihan of China in the last-four tie, the Indian ace didn’t let that disappointment hurt her as she fought tooth-and-nail with another Chinese badminton talent Wang Xin in the bronze-medal match.
While the Chinese won the opening game in that match, she was forced to withdraw from the tie in the beginning of the second game, handing Saina Nehwal the match and the Olympic bronze medal.
PV Sindhu goes a step ahead
Four years later at Rio 2016, another Indian sensation PV Sindhu took it upon her to become the first Indian to reach the final of a badminton event at the Olympic Games.
The usually shy and reserved PV Sindhu was at her raucous best as she raced her way into the final beating the likes of Tai Tzu Ying, Wang Yihan and Nozomi Okuhara to set up a mouth-watering clash with Spain’s Carolina Marin for the gold medal.
Even though the Indian started brightly in the summit tie, she couldn’t hold on to the lead as Coralina Marin rallied in a fine manner to take home the gold.
Four years after that defeat, the entire nation will be waiting with bated breath when the Indian badminton players take the court at Tokyo 2020 in a few months time.