Saina Nehwal claimed her second individual Commonwealth Games gold medal by defeating World No 3 PV Sindhu 21-18, 23-21 in a enthralling women’s singles final on Sunday at Gold Coast, Australia. While, Kidambi Srikanth put up a valiant fight but it wasn’t enough as Malaysian badminton legend Lee Chong Wei came up trumps in the men’s singles gold match. Earlier, India won a historic badminton team gold showing signs of an emerging true heavyweight in the sport.
From only knowing the name of Saina Nehwal and talking about PV Sindhu’s Rio Olympics silver, 2017-18 made sporting icons out of Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy. Kidambi Srikanth’s stellar rise to the top continued as he replaced Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen to achieve the numero-uno spot in the latest BWF World Rankings. Srikanth, became only the first male player from India in the modern era of BWF Rankings and third overall to achieve this exceptional feat.
Over the past two decades, badminton had been the most popular sport in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and some European nations. However, this barrier has been broken, in the last four to five years. Countries have managed to break the Chinese “wall” and achieve success in the game with Indians leading from the front. The two main figures behind this rise are Pullela Gopichand and Saina Nehwal. For players of this generation, watching Saina play made them believe that they too can dream, they too can win.
Indian players are no longer expected to just show up at tournaments. They’re expected to win. The amount of success that the Indian badminton players have seen on the international circuit has been a major boost to the sport in India. With more Indian players doing well on the world stage, badminton is getting better coverage on TV, and matches are being live streamed on the internet.
With all the current Indian stars still in their early years at the international circuit, much is expected from them in the future. And, looking at its recent performance, India could bring home multiple medals in badminton at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.