Sometimes the greatest champions are those that revive a lost cause; in this case, maybe a forgotten sport. Larger than life, they then become the face of the game, the mascot of its resurgence.
That is the story of Saina Nehwal and badminton in India.
Before the girl from Hyderabad had burst onto the scene, badminton was a sport played mostly by families on picnics. The more serious followers did remember the legendary Prakash Padukone and his famous exploits on the court, but they were few and far between. Especially since hardly anything ever got precedence over cricket in this country.
But thankfully, the scenes have changed.
Today badminton is a serious sport. Thousands train hard at academies across the country. Many youngsters have in fact taken it up as full-fledged careers, pushing themselves and their bodies, driven by a desire for glory and a genuine love for the game.
Being a badminton player today is aspirational. It is fashionable.
Sania - a role model and an icon for thousands of youngsters in India today has played an undisputed role in this story of revival and resurgence. When she started off, she had no access to the foreign coaches or the spanking facilities that young girls (and boys) enjoy today. Armed with dogged determination and that famous spirit to go-for-the-kill, she kept her mind on her goal. Supported wholeheartedly by her parents, she ended up winning a bronze for India at the Olympic games, and single-handedly challenged the domination of the Chinese on the court. No one is unbeatable and nothing is unachievable if you set your mind to it – her mantra has inspired thousands of youngsters to follow on her path to success.
An outlier who took the sporting world by storm…. read and be inspired by the Saina Nehwal story in the book, She Walks, She Leads, a compilation of women achievers and outstanding champions.