We are not a sporting nation: Sania Mirza

Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza won three women's doubles and as many mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. File photo: IANS

Mumbai: Bemoaning that India is not a sporting nation, tennis legend Sania Mirza has expressed disappointment at missing an Olympic medal and termed the day she and Rohan Bopanna lost the bronze medal match in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 as "one of the worst days" of her life.

Sania won three women's doubles and as many mixed doubles Grand Slam titles besides gold medals in the 2006 Doha and 2010 Incheon Asian Games. She is the only Indian woman player to be ranked No.1 in doubles and top-30 in women's singles during a professional career that stretched for two decades -- from February, 2003, to February, 2023.

In the Rio Olympics in 2016, Sania and Bopanna lost to Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the bronze medal clash.

"I think that if I have something in my career that I feel that I am missing is probably that Olympic medal. We came so close to it in Rio in 2016 and I don't usually cry after I lose matches, but that is something that sometimes when I think about it even today, it hurts me," Sania said in an interview with former India cricketer Veda Krishnamurthy on JioCinema original show 'Home of Heroes'.

"Winning an Olympic medal for your country and for yourself and your family is the biggest dream that any athlete can have. And we came very, very close to it, we came painfully close to it. I mean, to come fourth in the Olympics is the worst. You would rather come 30th, don’t come fourth. Three gets the medal and then the fourth has nothing. So, it was very painful, it was one of the worst days of mine and Rohan’s life for so many reasons. But yes, we had to finish the match," Sania said in a release.

Sania also talked about resuming her tennis career after motherhood, relationship with the media and her thoughts on how India can become a sporting nation.

Asked what needs to be done for the country to have another Sania, the Hyderabadi said that could be done only by changing the entire culture, investing in sports and putting in place a system that would nurture kids from a young age.

"We cannot become a sporting nation four months before the Olympics and then be a sporting nation four months after and then that's it for four years. We are not a sporting nation. We are a cricketing nation. And people don't like it when I say that. But that's the truth. And sometimes you have to hear the truth to make a change. We are not somebody, especially when a girl is born, we don't say, ‘Let’s make her an athlete.’ That is not what is said at all. If you go to Australia, that is a sporting nation where you are going and watching any sport and it’s packed."

"So, first, we have to change the culture, second, we have to get a system in place and third, we need to nurture kids from the age of eight, nine, ten and not wait for them to become something and then invest money in them or invest time in them. Also, I think it's very important that we have the right kind of coaches and trainers, whether that's brought in from outside to train the people that we have here or just bring in people from outside to nurture these kids that you are identifying, that will be your tomorrow," said Sania, who is married to Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik and lives in Dubai.

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