P. V. Sindhu Has Come A Long Way
A respected, and even feared opponent
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is arguably India’s most successful sportswoman. She has won the world title, two medals in successive Olympics, and has reached a career high ranking of No. 2 in the BWF rankings.
She is an instantly recognisable sports personality thanks to her endorsements which have put her earnings almost as that of the leading cricketers in the land. Over the last five years her earnings have seen her make the ‘Forbes’ magazine list of highest paid female athletes in the world.
Besides her playing skills on the court, her dusky good looks, ready smile and impeccable behaviour has made a crowd favourite. Sindhu has come a long way.
She has made giant strides since her debut in the international circuit at the age of 14, in 2009, when she won a bronze medal at the Asian sub junior badminton championships in Colombo.
Over the last decade-and-a-half, she has established herself as one of the leading players in the world running up an impressive record that has earned her honours such as the Arjuna award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan.
Over the years Sindhu could do little wrong winning titles and finishing runner-up at major international competitions maintaining her exalted status. Supremely fit and with a never say die attitude that matched the best players the world over, Sindhu was a respected, even feared opponent.
Her many duels with Spain’s Carolina Marin are among the legendary rivalries in the sport. Few can forget the Olympic final at Rio in 2016 between the two that attracted the highest TV viewership in India, next only to a cricketing event.
In the last year or so though there has been a palpable decline in Sindhu’s game. The lapse in form partly through injuries has seen her ranking fall to No 11.
With her sights set firmly on an Olympic gold medal at Paris later this year, she decided that there were some necessary steps she had to take to achieve her goal.
For several years Sindhu trained at P. Gopichand’s academy in Hyderabad. It was here that her game went from strength-to-strength, culminating in the world title in 2019 and two medals at the Olympics.
Last year, however, she parted company with Gopichand, a former all England singles winner in 2001 and trained with South Korean coach Park Tae-sang. But for the last couple of months she has moved her base to Bangalore to train at Prakash Padukone’s academy.
She works with both Prakash, a pioneering great who was the first Indian to win the All England title in 1980, and Indonesia’s Agus Del Santoso.
So now with a new coach and a new mentor in Padukone, and a new home, Sindhu is on an all-out bid to win an Olympic gold at Paris. She had to settle for silver and bronze in the two previous Games at Rio and Tokyo. And now, Sindhu considers these moves as essential to achieving her goal.
Sindhu had also worked for a short while with Malaysia’s Muhammad Hafiz Hashim, after splitting with Park Tse-sang. But she reckoned that she wanted a change of coach as she felt her stint with Hashim was not doing her game much good. That’s when she approached Agus who has earned a reputation for producing results.
“It’s always good to have some change’’ Sindhu, now 28 years old, says, adding “It’s a new year, a new team. Every aspect of the game I am going to concentrate on will be completely different. I understand the need to be 100 percent in every aspect, physically, mentally, in skill and in matters of strategy and tactics.’’
She is confident that her game will improve with Agus whom she has known for years. “He is really good for me because every coach has a different mindset. It's super tough, you are fatigued but they help you get back that strength and make sure your muscles are strong enough to be back on court the next day,’’ Sindhu said in a recent interview.
According to Sindhu who has raised awareness about the stigma surrounding prioritising mental health in sports she also has a “mental trainer’’. She says that while some of the mental training constitutes meditation, “at the same time it is important that you know what’s going on in your head while playing as there is a lot of pressure and responsibility involved as a result of high expectations.”
Sindhu, the only Indian to become a badminton world champion and only the second individual athlete from India to win two consecutive medals at the Olympics is clear about her objective. “If I want to achieve something and my aim is to win the Olympic gold then I would do anything for it, for it means everything to me,’’ she said.
Given her experience, credentials and qualifications Sindhu knows how to go about achieving her goal. She has always been determination personified, and this allied to her talent, skill and fitness could see her achieve her objective in Paris. In the meantime she makes a fresh start for the new year by taking part in the Asia Team championship in Malaysia next month.