Who is PV Sindhu — India’s badminton heroine in Rio

 

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She has come a long way — from a 16-year-old watching Saina Nehwal win the 2012 London Olympics bronze to being India’s lone badminton medal hope in the 2016 Games.

Prior to the Games, she had said, “The biggest dream I am chasing now is an Olympic medal. I remember watching Saina in London. Then I was ranked World No. 25. I always longed to be there and I am all excited to represent India in Rio.” She broke into the Top 20 in 2012, and is currently ranked no. 10 in the world.

Sindhu scripted a stellar 22-20, 21-19 win against former World No. 1 and London Games silver medallist Wang Yihan to enter the women’s semifinals. Her fierce strokeplay and aggressive cross-court returns have been the highlights of her game so far. She rated her win over the London Olympics silver medallist as one of the best moments of her career.

The Sindhu story

She first made her mark in the badminton circles in 2013. She won her maiden grand prix gold at the Malaysian Open, went on to win the first of her hat-trick of titles at the Macau Open. The bigger reward in the form of Arjuna award was the icing on the cake.

With former volleyball players for parents — her father Ramanna is an Arjuna awardee — it is only natural that sports had always been her calling. But why badminton? Inspired by her iconic mentor, Pullela Gopichand’s exploits on court, she started wielding the racquet at the age of eight. She was awarded the FICCI Breakthrough Sportsperson of the Year in 2014 and NDTV Indian of the Year 2014, the year in which she won her second consecutive medal at the World Championships.

In March 2015, P.V. Sindhu became the youngest recipient of the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour.

She is the second-highest-ranked women’s singles player from India after Olympic bronze medalist and No. 2 Saina Nehwal.

With a methodical style of play, considered to be defensive — building up with long rallies to lay seize to a point as and when an opening arises, she has evolved remarkably well to streamline her method towards winning. At the same time, she has recently added a more aggressive facet to her game, being more vociferous and playing attacking shots that put the opponent on the backfoot.

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With the singular feat of winning a medal at the world championships in 2013, the first for an Indian woman shuttler, P.V. Sindhu entered the domain of intense public scrutiny reserved for the most elite of sportspersons. To have won the Macau Open Grand Prix gold recently, despite being burdened by expectations which increased, as she was the defending champion, is quite commendable. In fact, it is her only title win this year, after losing the first quarter of the season to an injury. It is her third consecutive victory at the competition, making for an impressive trophy cabinet for a 20-year old!

Knowledge of her family and upbringing provides tacit understanding as to why she chose to become a sportsperson. With former volleyball players for parents it is only natural that sports had always been her calling. But why badminton? Inspired by her iconic mentor, Pullela Gopichand’s exploits on court, she started wielding the racquet at the age of eight. Her indomitable spirit has always been the most talked about feature of her game. “The most striking feature of Sindhu’s game is her attitude and never-say-die spirit,” remarked her coach.

With a methodical style of play, considered to be defensive — building up with long rallies to lay seize to a point as and when an opening arises, she has evolved remarkably well to streamline her method towards winning. When an athlete makes his or her way up the ladder, all keen and purposeful, with built-up character and technical refinement in tow, it is some morale-boosting victories, high on magnitude, that renders them more confident and replete with self-belief.

In Sindhu’s case, 2013 turned out to be significant as it was indicative of her relentless refinement. She won her maiden grand prix gold at the Malaysian Open, created the aforementioned Indian record in the World championships held at Guangzhou and went on to win the first of her hat-trick of titles at the Macau Open. Bigger reward in the form of Arjuna award was the icing on the cake. And to think that she still has a long career ahead only escalates our amazement. The coming year is yet another chance — for her to win more, hopefully, and for us to bask and rejoice.

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