PV Sindhu will remain India's golden shuttler regardless of medal colour

The Hyderabadi shuttler's latest accomplishment is becoming the first Indian woman to win two Olympic individual medals.

PV Sindhu celebrates her bronze medal at Tokyo Olympics; Credit: [email protected]

PV Sindhu entered the Tokyo Olympics as one of India’s main medal contenders, and the shuttler from Hyderabad did not let the country down. The reigning world champion, Sindhu, was not only a medal contender but a strong gold medal hopeful. In Tokyo, many expected her to go one step further and upgrade her medal to gold after settling for silver in Rio 2016. However, the Indian shuttler was unable to get past World No.1 Tai Tzu-Ying in the semifinals, losing in straight games. She picked herself up following the last-four disappointment and set her sights on the bronze medal match. China’s He Bing Jiao was no match for Sindhu’s level, as she cruised to a 21-13, 21-15 victory on Sunday.

The bronze was Sindhu’s as she became the first Indian woman to win two individual Olympic medals and only the second athlete from the country to achieve this rare feat. Wrestler Sushil Kumar is the other athlete from the country to win medals in two consecutive editions of the premier competition. Sushil won a bronze in the 2008 Games and a silver in the 2012 Games. Coming back to Tokyo, the 26-year-old shuttler may not have gotten what she came to Tokyo for – the coveted gold medal. The bronze medal, on the other hand, is a significant achievement in its own right.

A decade ago, India did not even have a single Olympic medal in badminton. Now the sport has managed to produce atleast one medal in the last three Olympics – 2012 London, 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo. All three were from female shuttlers and Sindhu has won two of them. Saina Nehwal won the other in the 2012 Games when she clinched the bronze. Rising from Saina’s shadows and overcoming numerous obstacles along the way to where she is now is no easy task for Sindhu. More than the colour of the medal, Sindhu’s achievements are distinguished by her dedication, desire, resilience, and never-say-die attitude.

Road to Rio glory

PV Sindhu rose to prominence at a young age, displaying maturity far beyond her years. It was at the World Championships, where she started to make a name for herself. The Hyderabadi shuttler secured India’s first women’s singles medal – bronze – at the World Championships in 2013. Another bronze awaited her at the World Championships in 2014 and she bagged the same medal in the Commonwealth Games held that year. It set the platform nicely for Sindhu ahead of the 2016 Olympics. However, in the run-up to the Rio Games, Saina was dominating the headlines and the Hyderabadi shuttler was happy to fly under the radar.

At just 21 years of age, participating in her maiden Olympics, the expectations were divided on the possibility of Sindhu winning a medal. Saina Nehwal – the country’s main medal hopeful – crashed out in the group stage with a shock defeat against Ukraine’s Maria Ulitina. With many fans giving up hope on a medal coming from badminton, Sindhu quietly continued to get the job done in the background.

After easing past Laura Sarosi in her first match, PV Sindhu survived a hard-fought clash against Michelle Li in a 19-21, 21-15, 21-17 victory to enter the last 16. Sindhu then clinched a crucial victory against Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu-ying 21-13, 21-15 in the pre-quarters. Her majestic run continued as she got the better of Wang Yihan 22-20, 21-19, to reach the semifinals.

A tough semifinal against second seed Nozomi Okuhara awaited her next. Unfazed by the task at hand, the Hyderabadi shuttler produced an inspired performance to win the match 21-19, 21-10. A second successive Olympic medal in badminton was guaranteed. Sindhu may have lost the final to her much-favored opponent Carolina Marin, but her incredible silver cemented India’s dominance in the world of badminton.

How she quashed ‘Silver Sindhu’ tag

There was a period when Sindhu struggled to take the last leap in major tournaments as she kept losing many finals. After Rio Olympics final defeat, she lost out to Marin again at the 2018 World Championships. Nozomi Okuhara had beaten her to gold at the 2017 World Championships. She then fell to Tai Tzu Ying at the 2018 Asian Games and also lost to her compatriot Saina Nehwal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games final. Hence, some went as far as calling her “Silver Sindhu” – quite unfairly too!

After settling for silver in her previous two World Championships singles final, Sindhu wanted to make the third one count. The Indian shuttler was also eager to get rid of the moniker “Silver Sindhu”. Standing in her way was Japanese sensation Nozomi Okuhara. In the 2017 final, Sindhu had lost a heart-breaking contest to Okuhara 19-21, 22-20, 20-22. Two years later, the Indian badminton queen got her revenge.

A dominant Sindhu deservedly became the women’s singles world champion with a 21-7, 21-7 victory in just 38 minutes. The gold medal banished the demons of her previous finals as she became the first shuttler from the country to win the coveted World Championships gold. Sindhu’s journey has been arduous and difficult. To get to where she is, the shuttler had to overcome a lot of painful memories along the way. Coming to Tokyo, PV Sindhu may have wished for a different colour medal, but she does not need an Olympic gold to be considered the best shuttler in Indian history.

Sportslumo Desk

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