Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leave Her Alone

Yesterday's Times of India carried a profile of Saina Nehwal. Starting from what she eats during the day - and what she doesn't (ice cream etc.) - they chronicled her sacrifices as a teenager, her sleeping habits and her punishing schedule. For Saina's sake, I hope these guys stay off her.
Why does the media make a big deal about these? Every one of the things that they portrayed as a "sacrifice" or some kind of superhuman self-control is actually the regimen of every sportsperson who is out to win. And make no mistake; in individual sports, the break-through age has gone down drastically. You just have to look into a tournament draw to realize that. The most prominent example is the seemingly endless army of Russian teenage tennis players in the top 20. Kournikova, Dementieva, Myskina, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Safina, Chekvatadze; the list just refuses to end! After being done with them, as an afterthought, you could also think of names like Michael Phelps, Rafa Nadal and now Saina Nehwal.
Just because teenagers being achievers - and winners - has not happened in our country on a regular basis does not mean we have to romanticise these moments. Maybe I am being too harsh, but these kind of reports carry a "happy-with-little-things" undertone. Just like reports which went gaga over Sania Mirza being the first Indian to reach the top 32! For heavens sake, it has only been a few years that seedings are done till 32. Otherwise it is just another number in the ranking computer which when translated in english means "also ran". To put the whole thing in perspective, Sania Mirza and Jelena Jankovic started out at (pretty much) the same time. Jankovic has since reached the top while Sania still remains the undisputed queen of the outside courts. A definite victim of the "happy-with-little-things" syndrome.
Cricket apart, Saina is arguably the biggest bundle of talent - and ability - from India since PT Usha. So she should aim right for the top and nothing less. She has miles to go and that she will, provided she keeps the focus. Firstly, she needs to shed a few more kilos during the next year for her on-court movement and also in order to keep injuries away. She needs to keep making it to the weekends at tournaments and the grand prize (read All England/World/Olympics) will definitely come somewhere down the line. The mini-biographies and anecdotes can wait till such time.
- BS

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