Newly-crowned world no. 1 Saina Nehwal, is India’s most popular face in badminton. With the Rio 2016 just a year away, it is heartening to know that Saina is not India’s only hope for a medal in the next Olympics. There are some talented youngsters coming up who have made waves along with some old warhorses, who are fighting hard and aiming for glory. We take a look at India’s great other medal hopes apart from the biggest one of them all, Saina Nehwal:
All of 20, Sindhu has emerged has the biggest contender to Saina Nehwal in the Indian badminton scene. She won her maiden Grand Prix title winning the 2013 Malaysia Open and followed it up by winning back-to-back Macau Open Grand Prix Gold titles in 2013 and 2014. She is also the first Indian woman to win a medal at the BWF World Championships, winning the bronze in 2013 and again in 2014. She won the Arjuna Award in 2013 and has already been conferred the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2015.
Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa
Jwala Gutta is a veteran doubles specialist and has been an activist of sorts, championing the cause for the doubles which was less emphasised on in India. Along with Ashwini, she became the first Indian women’s pair to win a medal at the BWF World Championships when they clinched bronze in 2011. The pair is currently tenth in the rankings and has been part of the bronze-winning team at the Asian Games and Uber Cup, both in 2014. They also recently won the Canada Open Grand Prix title and have also won silver at the Commonwealth Games. The duo has been together since 2010 and has shown the capability to upset more fancied opponents.
This 22-year old won the 2013 Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold before winning his first National senior title. With a habit of defying the odds, he became the first Indian to win a Super Series Men’s Premier title when he upset the legendary Lin Dan to win the China Open. In 2015, he won the Indian Open and became the first Indian to win the Swiss Open. With age on his side and four titles already in the bag with a world ranking of number 3, Srikanth looks ready to take his game to a much higher level.
The current world number 10 has somewhat flattered to deceive in his career though that does not take away the fact that Kashyap has tremendous fighting spirit. An Arjuna Award winner in 2012, he became the first Indian in 32 years to win the Commonwealth Games gold after his win in 2014.
V Diju-Jwala Gutta
The experienced pair is ranked number 7 in the mixed doubles circuit and is the first Indian pair to win a Grand Prix Gold title when they won the Chinese Taipei Open in 2009. The Jwala-Diju pair may not be getting any younger but they definitely seem to have the appetite for the one big hurrah.