All eyes on Saina as Indian shuttlers begin Olympic campaign

Rio de Janeiro: Four years after a bronze at London Games made her the toast of the nation, Saina Nehwal will once again carry a billion hopes when she along with the other six shuttlers, including doubles exponent Jwala Gutta, begin their campaign at the Rio Olympics here tomorrow.

Saina had started her Olympic journey as an 18-year-old when she reached the quarterfinals at the Beijing Games.

The loss suffered eight years ago to Indonesia's Maria Kristin Yulianti spurred her to scoop the bronze at London and she will be hungry to taste gold this time when she starts her campaign in Group G, which includes lesser-known players such as Lohaynny Vicente and Maria Ulitina.

It has been an eventful couple of years for Saina as she shifted base from Hyderabad to Bangalore in early 2014 and trained under the watchful eyes of former chief coach Vimal Kumar.

She won a silver at All England and World Championship, clinched the India Open and coveted China Premier Super Series title and became the World No. 1.

But an ankle injury sustained in the end phase of last year troubled her and almost derailed her Olympic campaign before Saina fought back and regained her fitness and came up with a consistent run of performance at Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia which culminated with the Australian Open triumph in June.