NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Badminton world number three Saina Nehwal has urged India's other female athletes to make the sacrifices necessary to break into the country's male-dominated sports community.
The 20-year-old from Hyderabad, who picked up her second successive Indonesia Open Super Series title last month, told Reuters that Indian women had to toughen up to compete at the highest level.
"It is indeed very difficult for women in this country to excel because of many archetypal conservative attitudes and other societal obstacles," said Nehwal, who became the first Indian woman to reach the Olympic quarter-finals in Beijing in 2008.
"Which is why we have more women from countries like China, Japan and Korea. Also I think women in India need to be mentally and physically stronger to compete in international sports.
"Of course one needs to have conviction, zeal and strong resolve to train and learn. And one has to be watchful of a healthy diet and fitness regime, which means absolutely no fast food and more salads and proteins."
Nehwal put her success down to the financial sacrifices made by her parents and her own dedication to a rigorous training regime that left her exhausted and out of pocket.
"I would often sleep on the pillion of my father's scooter," she said. "And during the course I lost many rackets, some even as costly as 10,000 rupees ($215). On one occasion, my father went on to lodge a police complaint against the loss of racket."
Nehwal said she wanted to build on her success and capture more titles before the end of the year.
"I want to take this winning streak forward to a world championship title, the Commonwealth Games 2010 in India and later Asian Games 2010 in China."
Writing by Peter Rutherford in Singapore, Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org