Secrets of Success of Saina Nehwal

Saina Nehwal ranks third among the top singles badminton players in the world and is the only Indian to have reached the singles quarter finals at the Olympics, and won the World Junior Badminton Championships in 2008. 20 year old Saina Nehwal’s three titles in three weeks is a phenomenal achievement for the Indian sport.

Saina was born in Hisar, Haryana,India and spent her complete life in city of Hyderabad. Her foray into the world of badminton was influenced by her father Dr. Harvir Singh, a scientist at the Directorate of Oilseeds Research, Hyderabad and her mother Usha Nehwal, both of whom were former badminton champions in Haryana.

What does it take to make a badminton star like Saina Nehwal? Ask her father Harvir Singh.

If Saina battles it out on the badminton court against the world’s best players, it has been no less a battle for her father to let her do the same.

Rarely a middle-class family can think of spending half of the monthly income on an eight-year-old child’s training without knowing if the gamble would pay off.

But Harvir Singh, a Scientist with the Directorate of Oilseeds Research Hyderabad, opted to go by the advice of PSS Nani Prasad Rao, the then badminton coach of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP), who saw immense potential in the girl.

“I met Nani Prasad Rao in December, 1998, at Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad. Saina was standing with a badminton racket on the court and he asked her to play. After watching her game, he said,‘She has the potential and if you want to train her, bring her to me as a summer trainee,” Harvir said.

The tough journey had started. Saina had to be taken to the stadium every day early in the morning and the distance from the house was 20 km.

“It was a challenge for both of us because I had to wake up early so that we could reach the stadium by 6 am. The training session used to last for about two hours.

After attending the training session, Saina had to attend school. This way I had to drive my scooter around 50 km daily as Saina, apart from attending rigorous practice sessions, had to concentrate on studies,” her father explained.

The impact of this tough routine began to show in the first week as Saina would often fall asleep on the back seat.

Sensing the danger, Saina’s mother started accompanying them on the two-wheeler. This continued for three months.

Ultimately, the family had to arrange a house near the stadium in 1999. This time the distance was about 7 km from the stadium.

But the travelling ordeal did not end here as Saina was asked to attend evening training sessions as well.

“With an extra training session, the travelling expenditure rose to Rs 150 per day. Added to this was the cost of training. Shuttles, racket, shoes, guttings and what not had to be purchased regularly. I spent around Rs 12,000 every month to keep her going those days,” Harvir said.

But how did the family manage such high-cost training? Saina’s father revealed that he had to sacrifice his savings.

“I started withdrawing money from my provident fund. Sometimes it was Rs 30,000 and other times it was nearly Rs 1 lakh. It happened more than five times when I had to shell out money from my PF savings due to Saina’s various requirements,” said Harvir.

He stated that the tight-rope walk continued till 2002 until Yonex Sunrise sports offered to sponsor Saina’s kit.

“It came as a big relief. Fortunately, she got BPCL support late in 2004. Ultimately, she was spotted by Mittal Sports Trust in December, 2005.

“But I had never disclosed to Saina my financial difficulties fearing that she might get disturbed knowing that her father was left with no savings for the future,” he said.

When asked if they got any help from the sports authorities, the answer said it all.

“Till 2003, she was getting Rs 600 per month from the Sports Authority of India (SAI). It was raised to Rs 2,500 in June, 2003. You can understand how I could have managed,” Harvir said.

Apart from the training cost, hefty telephone bills put extra financial burden on the family when Saina started touring foreign countries for events.

The byte-crazy media played a part too. Wherever she went, be it the Philippines or South Korea, her phone kept ringing.

“A major part of the prize money that Saina got from big competitions like the Philippines Open and World Junior Championship was utilised in paying her mobile bills, which were between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000 in the touring months,” he said.

But was the prize money enough when she began her career? “Saina was given just Rs 300 as prize money after winning the under-10 state level competition, held in Tirupati in 1999. The period between 1999-2004 was very trying for the family as we did not get any sponsor for her,” Harvir said.

It was not only the financial burden but the risk of lagging behind on the educational front which added to the pressure.

Saina had to skip examinations twice. She did not take her first year intermediate exams because of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and later in May, she could not write supplementary exams as she was in the Philippines.

At present she is studying in the second year at Saint Ann’s College, Mehdipatnam Hyderabad. Ironically, the family, despite her big success at the international level, has not been able to celebrate much.

“She has never been to any party, any restaurant or cinema in the past seven years. When the electronic media personnel visited my home in May last year for shooting of a programme, I could not even offer them sweets. Do I need to explain why,” he said.

The key to Saina’s Success is simple. Know and set your goal. Stick to one goal – if you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Knowing the goal clearly is crucial. People with a goal succeed because they know where they are going..


Life lessons from Michael Phelps


At 23, Michael Fred Phelps has become an international sporting sensation.


The young American swimmer has smashed seven world records and won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics , the first athlete ever to secure first place so many times at a single Olympics Games.


Given his success, it’s easy to slot Phelps into the ‘born achievers’ category — at 23, he’s established a glorious career doing what he loves best, he’s a millionaire, a world record-holder and the pride of his nation.

But hold on a minute — is Michael Phelps really a born achiever?


He may beg to differ.


At the age of seven Phelps, the youngest of three children, was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For those not familiar with the condition, ADHD is a childhood condition characterised by constant activity, impulsive behaviour and the inability to focus one’s attention on anything for a short span of time.


ADHD is treated with therapy and medication, but is not classified as curable — as per information on the website, about 60 percent of afflicted kids carry the condition into adulthood.


To help release his pent-up energy and to emulate his older sisters who were also accomplished swimmers, Phelps took up swimming, starting to outshine his peers right from the start.


At the age of nine, Michael’s parents divorced. His mother brought up all three children single-handedly, encouraging them to follow their dreams at all costs — one middle-school teacher even told Michael’s mother he would never be a success.


But successful Phelps is, and how.


Yes, there are the occasional set-backs. Like the time back in 2004 when Phelps, then 19, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was under the legal drinking age limit of 21 in any case and to top it he was driving in an inebriated state. A repentant Phelps pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months probation, saying in court, “I recognise the seriousness of this mistake. I’ve learned from this mistake and will continue learning from this mistake for the rest of my life.”

So who is Michael Phelps? He was a regular kid who struggled with an irregular condition and the divorce of his parents. He’s young, he excels at what he does and like the rest of us, slips up once in a while.


And what life lessons do his struggles and successes hold for us?


  Deal with your own issues effectively — Michael certainly dealt with ADHD and his parents’ divorce that way. His mother helped him cope up with his condition and channeled his energy into what he loved.


  Cut out the drama — Michael’s story is inspirational but at the same time, neither the young man nor his family have exploited their experiences to sensationalise his life. They’ve told it like it is.


  Zero in on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses — He was less than an average student at school, but Michael was a passionate and dedicated student of his sport. The young swimmer is known to have studied tapes of his races over and over, zeroing in on mistakes and working towards bettering himself constantly. Excellent is still not good enough.


  Remain focused on your goals — At the Athens Olympics back in 2004, Phelps was beaten by teammate Ian Crocker beat in the 100m butterfly. He put up a poster of Crocker in his room to motivate him and keeps a list of his career goals beside his bed.


  Pursue what you love with passion and put in a genuine effort — Phelps’ dedication to swimming was apparent back when he was nine and began to break national records in his age group. His commitment to what he does has grown with him.


It’s not just his career and his unbelievable performance at the Olympics that classify Phelps as a winner — it’s his story of inspiration that makes him a real champion, a youth icon, somebody to look up