December 12 - Saina Nehwal (pictured), India's top badminton player and one of the nation's brightest hopes for an Olympic medal, has signed a three-year contract with Olympic Gold Quest, a not for profit sports foundation until the 2012 London Olympics.

Saina became the first Indian to win a Badminton World Federation (BWF) Super Series event when she triumphed at the Indonesia Open in Jakarta earlier this year.

She is also the first Indian woman to reach the singles quarter finals at the Olympics - at Beijing last year - and the first Indian to win the Junior World Badminton Championship, in Pune in 2008.

Olympic Gold Quest was co-founded by Indian sporting legends Prakash Padukone, the former All-England badminton champion, and snooker player and Geet Sethi, winner of the world billiards title six times.

Its mission is to help the nation's most talented athletes in individual Olympic sports to win gold medals for the country.

World record holder rifle shooter Gagan Narang and four-time World boxing Champion Mary Kom are two of the leading Indian sportsmen and women supported by Olympic Gold Quest.

Saina said: "I am looking forward to working with Olympic Gold Quest and I am sure that they will look after me very well.

"The presence of Viren [Rasquina, the chief operating officer] is crucial because being an international hockey player himself, he has an inherent understanding of all sports and he understands the level of preparation that I need.

""Also I have been very impressed with the professionalism that Olympic Gold Quest has shown with men's players Guru Sai Dutt and P. Kashyap who train with me at the Gopichand Academy."

Rasquinha, the former India hockey captain who was in Hyderabad for the contract signing, said: "Saina's achievements speak for itself.

"She is a wonderful role model for all sportspersons in the country.

"We are delighted to get this opportunity to work closely with her and help her win an Olympic gold medal for the country."

Padukone said: "There is no doubt in my mind that Saina has what it takes to be an Olympic champion.

"She must remained focused and take care of her fitness. Her mental strength and self belief is a key asset."

Rasquinha said: "National coach Pullela Gopichand and also Saina's parents have played a significant role in getting her to the current [world] ranking of number eight.

"But there is so much more to be done.

"Saina will now be on the radar of every coach around the world.

"We can make a difference by providing her with quality research on her opponents, top class medical support and scientifically planned training."

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