Saina Nehwal

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) London Olympics bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal on Friday said she now feels “stronger, better and lighter” on the court post her successful return from a knee surgery after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Saina was one of India’s top contenders for a podium finish at the Rio Games until a knee problem derailed her Olympic hopes and she was forced to go under the knife last August.

Post rehabilitation, the 26-year-old attributed her quick return to the court to her coach and physiotherapist.

“I have never had to undergo surgery in my career before. This was the first time that the doctor told me that I have to undergo a knee surgery. I was thinking if I was able to come back after that surgery, how much time it’s going to take me, so there were a lot of doubts in my mind,” Saina was quoted as saying by Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) website.

“It happened during the Olympics, I was so scared. Will I be able to play again or not? That moment was very sad. I was mentally not prepared for it at all. I was crying in front of my parents and my coaches. It was going to be tough for me to come out of the surgery.”

“Then I met my physiotherapist who said he will get me back in two to three months. He told me to believe in myself and stay positive,” she added.

Playing for Awadhe Warriors, Saina, who lost to Rio Olympics silver medallist P.V. Sindhu in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) semi-finals, said she had to focus on regaining her strength during her rehabilitation stage.

“The one thing I had to work on was to get my strength back, which you lose after a surgery. He (physiotherapist) worked on my weaker areas; when I train now, it feels easier for me because all the areas were covered up very well.”

“I feel stronger, better and lighter on the court,” she said.

Saina, who was recently selected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission, said the honour of representing the athletes came with huge responsibilities.

“It’s such a huge honour and it’s rare for an Indian player to get that kind of honour. It’s a very big responsibility; it’s not going to be easy because I’m also playing at the highest level so I need to give 100 percent to the sport as well,” she said.

“But I have to spend a lot of time in this initiative because I have to discuss with the Commission about the sport, how to improve it, the problems of the players and the different sports.”

“There are a lot of things involved in the Athletes’ Commission so it’s not only going to be my work, it has to be some people around me who’re going to support me and help me out with this,” she added.

The former World No.1, who was also made an Integrity Ambassador for BWF’s ‘I am badminton campaign’, hopes to gain 100 percent fitness and clinch more titles in the coming days.

“The game is very fast, it’s an aggressive sport. Badminton is the sort where you don’t have time to think in between.”

“It’s not easy at this level when you are playing against the best players in the world. You have to be at your best fitness every time you play at the highest level because everyone wants to win,” she said.

“The opponents and their coaches will be giving their 100 percent and I have to do the same thing. Of course, there has been a lot of input from my coaches and trainers. I hope to be fitter and win more titles,” the Hyderabadi shuttler added.

The World No.10 is currently playing the Malaysia Masters, where she has reached the quarter-finals after beating Hanna Ramadini of Indonesia 21-17, 21-12 in the second round on Thursday.

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