Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal had promised her father that she would return with a medal and she fulfilled her promise when she bagged a bronze in the women's singles event at the London Olympics.
Speaking to mediapersons in Hyderabad, Saina disclosed she was confident that she would win a medal but never spoke about it. "I was confident that I would win a medal, but never said it because that adds to the pressure. I have seen many players doing it.Â I was playing well and I was feeling good. I had told my father that there is no way I am coming without a medal," Saina said.
The Indian badminton queen, as she is known now in media, returned home to a rousing reception, following her historic feat in London Olympics, where she won a bronze.
"It's just unbelievable, I am speechless. I am happy that I actually did what I promised and believed in. It is a dream to win gold but I am happy that at least I have a bronze and is the first Indian to win a badminton Olympic medal," Saina, flanked by her coach Pullela Gpichand and father Harvir, said at a press conference after arriving from London.
Asked how it feels, having an historic Olympic medal around her neck, she said, "From outside, I am normal and Gopi sir is normal but inside I am jumping with joy."
Saina said she has made a lot of sacrifices but the result of all the hard work is much bigger.
"There is nothing bigger than standing on podium with an Olympic medal. That's life for me," she said while responding to a question as to how she plans to compensate all the sacrifices she has made to reach this stage of her career.
Saina thanked her parents and her coach. "I want to thank dad, mom and Gopi sir for their support. I really hope to win many more medals for India," she said.
Saina who bagged the bronze medal in London under fortuitous circumstances when her opponent - world no. 2 Xin Wang - was leading by a game and 1-0 before withdrawing from the bronze medal contest.
Wang twisted her knee late in the opening game when attempting an acrobatic smash from the rear court. The Chinese shuttler was unable to continue the contest and the bronze went to Saina who became only the second Indian woman after weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (bronze in 2000 Sydney) to clinch an Olympic medal.
Saina said she felt for her opponent. "I felt bad for her, it was really sad, I had never won a match like that ever. I was still in game mode and was surprised when Wang quit the game," she said.
Speaking about Wang Yihan, who dashed her hopes to qualify further, Saina said: "My strategy was not right against Wang Yihan. She's World No. 1 and she certainly has good qualities. Next time I will be better."
When asked how she looked at her future, she said, "It depends how you progress. I played a 33-years old (Tine Baun of Denmark) in London (in quarter finals). As long as I am winning, I will continue."
Although the game of badminton brought only one medal from the London Games, Saina said that the Indian players are fast becoming a force.
"Last time (Beijing Games) I played quarter-finals, this time I have a bronze, Kashyap played quarter-finals, Jwala and D Viju played good match. I think the team is getting strong for the next Olympics," she said.
Pullela Gopichand, Saina's coach and mentor, also praised her grit and determination. "When it mattered the most, Saina gave her 100%. She never missed her practice ever for a single day," Gopichand said.
Gopichand also disclosed that he had promised Saina to help her win an Olympic medal. "I had promised Saina that we will win a medal in Olympics. And getting a medal for her was a real big challenge," the former Indian badminton player said.
"I never had an Olympic medal in my career but now I have one," he added.
Mr Harvir Singh, Saina's father, was also present. He thanked everyone. Beaming with pride, Mr Singh patted his daughter and said, "Well done Saina". He also said that he wished that Saina won many medals in the future. He also added that hopefully the colour of the medals will also change in the future.
(With PTI inputs)