first_imgIndia’s top shuttler Saina Nehwal should aim for nothing less than fetching the country its first women’s gold medal at next month’s Delhi Commonwealth Games, according to her predecessor Aparna Popat.”She has to go for the gold medal. Nothing less will do. I don’t think anyone can beat her (to the singles title),” said Aparna who carved a niche twelve years ago when the Games were first held in the Asian continent – in Malaysia.”I expect some challenge from players of Malaysia and Singapore, but not much. They may reach the semis but I feel Saina has the best chance (to win the gold). Not only me but every one would be disappointed if she does not clinch the (women’s singles) gold medal,” the former shuttler told PTI.India have never won a gold medal in women’s singles in past Games. Both their badminton singles gold medals have been fetched by men – Prakash Padukone in 1978 at Edmonton (Canada) and the late Syed Modi in 1982 at Brisbane (Australia).The 32-year-old Aparna, administrative manager of Indian Oil, won a silver medal when she lost to Kelly Morgan of Wales in the final of the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998. She also helped the women’s team win the bronze.Aparna, who went on to win another individual bronze in the next Games at Manchester and lost in the quarter finals of the Melbourne Games four years ago before retiring from the shuttle game, expects a haul of at least four badminton medals from the October 3-14 Games.advertisementAparna feels India also have a very good chance to strike gold in all the three doubles events.”Jwala (Gutta) and (V) Diju have a good chance in mixed doubles. Sanave (Thomas) and Rupesh (Kumar) (men’s) as well as Jwala and Ashwini (Ponnappa) (women’s) – all have good chance.In fact everyone has a good chance,” said Aparna who foresees a clutch of medals for the hosts in badminton.”We should aim for four-plus medals. They need to play well,” said the former eight-time national singles champion.Talking about her own experience at the three CWGs she took part in, Aparna said mingling with the Indian cricket team and staying in the same apartment complex with the cricketers was a memorable experience in Kuala Lumpur.”That was my first multi-discipline event. The Indian cricket team was there. They were staying above us in the same building. Sachin Tendulkar was there and Anil Kumble came to the badminton hall to see a few matches we played. It was a memorable experience,” she recalled.Aparna said India had a pretty big badminton team as the format was different with the men’s and women’s team championships were held separately unlike the current mixed one.The former shuttle queen said she did not expect to win the silver in that edition.”I still remember the final against Kelly, who at that time, was playing very well even against the top players of the world. The first game was close and there was a debatable line call. I went there expecting to play well, put my best foot forward, that’s all,” she said.Aparna said the coaching camp at Bangalore prior to the 1998 Games and shuttle legend Prakash’s presence as coach helped the team a lot in clinching four medals at Kuala Lumpur.”We had Prakash Padukone as coach and had a camp in Bangalore prior to the Games. There was lot of team spirit and camaraderie. We gelled well as a team and got four medals,” she remembered.Aparna feels the standard of badminton in Commonwealth Games is considerably less than what a player encountered in the World Championships and Olympic Games or even the Asian Games.”The levels are lower than what players encounter in the world championships or even at the Asian Games because badminton is a strong suit among Asian countries,” she said.last_img

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