Aparna Popat focused on task ahead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Aparnapopat1.jpg' class='caption'> One of India's many hopes in Olympics 2004 is badminton player Aparna Popat.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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One of India's many hopes in Olympics 2004 is badminton player Aparna Popat, once described by former All-England champion Prakash Padukone as his most promising student. This will be her second Olympics appearance after Sydney 2000. She was ranked as high as 16 in the world in 1999, but crashed out in the first round at Sydney. A three-month ban for taking a banned substance had clearly shaken her, though all she did wrong was take a routine drug for a cough and a cold. 'Speed and strength' But her motto of "speed and strength" saw her pull her ranking back to 23. Aparna and her coach Ganguly Prasad have worked very hard at strengthening the shuttler's body structure. Now she's tougher, both physically and mentally. Career graph Aparna was the 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and then followed that up by becoming the first Indian woman to reach the pre-quarter finals of a World Championship in Birmingham last year. She also made it to the quarterfinals of the German Open last year. Aparna's coach believes that past performances notwithstanding, a lot will depend on the luck of the draw. "Draw is an important factor in the Olympics. We are hoping for an easy first round match, and an average second round match. If she wins those, she might even get into the medal bracket," Prasad said. Aparna got a direct entry for Athens on the basis of her ranking. And as she gears up for her second shot at Olympic glory, she tries to stay focused on the task ahead.

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