UNODC Conversations: India's Badminton Ace Saina Nehwal says "Listen First" on World Drugs Day


New Delhi, India/26 June 2017: In an exclusive chat with UNODC Regional Office for South Asia on World Drugs Day, India's ace shuttler and Padma Bhushan awardee Saina Nehwal reflects on her stellar career in badminton and some of the most pertinent issues facing the region, while extending her support to UNODC's "Listen First" campaign for the prevention of drug use.

From accolades to sporting titles: Unforgettable moments

Saina Nehwal: "I became the first Indian badminton player to win the Commonwealth Games Gold medal in 2010, which gave me public recognition in several countries. Young boys and girls made me their idol and started playing badminton. But my name was cemented as the "Badminton Girl of India" across the world, when I won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Then I became the World Number One player in badminton in 2015, and this made me a big name in the realm of international badminton. For my achievements, the Government of India bestowed me with the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2010, the Khel Ratna award in 2010 and the Padma Bhushan in 2016."

Pillars of support: People behind the persona

Saina Nehwal: "I feel very happy to be known as the 'Ace Badminton player of India'. I am grateful to my parents who encouraged me to take up sports, and thankful to my revered coaches--Shri Nani Parsad Rao, Shri S M Aarif, Shri Gopichand, Shri Goverdhan Reddy and Shri Vimal Kumar--who sharpened my talent in Badminton and taught me the basics of the sport. I am highly thankful also to the Government of India, the Sports Authority of India and the Badminton Association of India for sponsoring and supporting me. And most importantly, I am indebted to the people of India and abroad for their love."

Mantra for fitness: Coping with injuries and losses

Saina Nehwal: "I eat simple homemade food on time at regular intervals, with the advice of my nutritionist to keep and maintain good health.  Injuries can spoil anybody's career. I too have suffered several injuries throughout my career, including Achilles' tendons in my feet and injury to the knee. These hampered my progress, but injuries are bound to happen while playing at highest level. Injuries are to be tackled with confidence, otherwise they make you weak."

Public adulation: Societal responsibility?

Saina Nehwal: "I do feel people love my game and me, and want their kids to be in sports like me. Even on social media, I often get positive comments like "step up your game" and "do your best to give results". I feel elated to know this and try to give my best in badminton and my life, so people do not follow me blindly but with complete faith in me. I want them to know that if Saina can do it, their kids can also do it and earn fame."

Drug use: Combating the crisis

Saina Nehwal: "Drug use is a major cause of concern for the society today. It hampers health and the well-being of families, and affects the progress of the nation. I feel vigorous and strong efforts are required to prevent drug use. Families and the youth should be made conscious of the ill-effects of drug use through regular social messages. I feel it is important to lend a healing touch and listen to the youth and those with an addiction problem. Listening to children and the youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe, and I fully support UNODC's "Listen First" campaign."

Tackling drug use with sports: A game-changer?

Saina Nehwal: "Drug use kills the spirit of sports and affects the health of the person who does it. As an ambassador of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), I endorse the slogan-'I am Clean. I am Badminton.' I encourage everyone to stay away from drug use and promote WADA slogans across the world through badminton. Moreover, all sports federations have strict rules pertaining to drug use. However, it is unfortunate that despite all this, some ignorant sportspersons fall prey to substance use and spoil their careers. I feel there is a need for greater consciousness among the youth. The young generation must learn to "Say No to Drugs" and instead focus on building their health and lives." 

World Drug Day: Advice to the Youth

Saina Nehwal: "Drug use is a major cause of concern for the society today. It hampers health and the well-being of individuals, families, and affects the progress of the nation. It is unfortunate to see so many youth take up drugs today, and give up on their health, well-being and life. Drugs do not solve any of life's problems; they only make them more difficult. My advice to the youth is to make life your new high. Say no to drugs and instead engage in more meaningfully contributing to your health, families and society. Staying healthy is the greatest asset one can have."

UNODC's work in South Asia: Thoughts

Saina Nehwal: "I fully appreciate the tremendous work and initiatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in South Asia. UNODC is playing a very instrumental role in addressing issues of transnational organized crime and promoting health, security and justice. I extend my wishes and support to the UNODC ROSA team in working for the betterment of the society." 

(As told to Samarth Pathak, Communications Officer, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia)