Saina Nehwal kisses a gold medal after a win in New Delhi, India. (AP)

Saina Nehwal kisses a gold medal after a win in New Delhi, India. (AP)

A seventeen-year-old Saina plays a shot during a Championship match in Patna, India. (AP)

A seventeen-year-old Saina plays a shot during a Championship match in Patna, India. (AP)

Fans in India carefully follow the ups and downs of popular athletes. (AP)

Fans in India carefully follow the ups and downs of popular athletes. (AP)

Played on a small court, badminton requires super-quick reflexes. (AP)

Played on a small court, badminton requires super-quick reflexes. (AP)

Saina shows frustration after losing a point. (AP)

Saina shows frustration after losing a point. (AP)

Saina and the Badminton Boom

Posted: May 2, 2016

Would you like to become an Olympic athlete one day? Would it be worth waking up at four in the morning to practice?

That’s what nine-year-old Saina did. It seemed like Saina was born to play badminton. Her father was a university badminton champion. Her mother was state champion. They observed their daughter. “She is strong for her age,” they said. They were right! Saina’s mom started waking her up early. She carried the girl 15 miles on a scooter to training. Saina spent three hours in the gym at a time—and she wasn’t even a teenager yet! Saina’s mom encouraged her to eat well. She helped her focus on her badminton game. Saina says her mom taught her to work hard.

Soon a trainer named S.M. Arif noticed Saina. He trained another badminton star: Pullela Gopichand. Mr. Gopichand won the All England title in 2001. Saina was watching. Usually, Chinese people won those titles. Mr. Gopichand proved an Indian could beat them. If he could do it, why couldn’t Saina do it too?

Soon, Mr. Gopichand became Saina’s coach. Mr. Gopichand wished he had had more resources to train when he was young. So he raised millions of dollars. He built a badminton academy. But not many kids were interested. At first, only 50 came for training. But now Saina has become famous. She gives kids in India hope, just like Mr. Gopichand gave hope to her. Now Mr. Gopichand doesn’t have enough room for all the kids who want to play! He built another school, and it’s still overflowing! People have a name for this: the Saina Effect.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. — Proverbs 13:12