In 2012, Saina earned India its third medal at the London Olympics by clinching a bronze under fortuitous circumstances, when her opponent and world No 2 Xin Wang conceded the third-place play-off match due to a knee injury after taking the first game. Wang was forced off the court with a twisted knee but returned after bandaging it and quickly went up 1-0 in the second game. However, unable to continue due to immense pain, the Chinese shuttler shook hands with Saina to concede the match and the bronze medal. Aged 22, Saina thus became the first Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Olympics.
“I was disappointed [to lose in the semi-final]. I had gone to London to win the gold. I had a day to compose myself, as I knew I had to return with a medal. I had to show something for all the hard work that I had put in over the last four years. I knew I could beat Wang Xin as I had beaten her in the past,” says Saina. “I lost the first game but was still confident of coming through, as it was my eagerness to dominate and be aggressive that had seen me commit unforced errors. I had already noticed that Wang was not moving too well and looked short of full fitness for a match at this level.”
But more than winning the gold, Saina confessed that it was the sight of the Indian flag waving high at the Wembley Stadium which stirred her emotions. From London to Beijing, Saina has won 10 individual titles, the most recent being the Australian Open in June, and has reached the pinnacle of the BWF World Rankings on more than one occasions. She is hands down India’s best hope of a medal finish in the perennial games.