PV Sindhu: The 25-year-old Hyderabad shuttler is so much more than a role model

Sindhu’s willpower to turn heartbreaking final defeats into memorable titles will forever give hope to budding players.

PV Sindhu almost came close to winning a gold medal at 2016 Rio Games (Image credit: Twitter)
By Karthik Raman | Mar 16, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

The poster girl for Indian badminton, PV Sindhu, did not always have it easy. She had to show extreme resilience and willpower to overcome her final defeats in major tournaments. Not once but twice she lost the World Championships finals in 2017 and 2018 to Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin. In the 2018 Commonwealth Games final, Saina Nehwal dealt the fatal blow to her compatriot. In the midst of it, Gadde Ruthvika Shivani stunned Sindhu in the final of the 2016 South Asian Games. But the most heart-breaking moment was the 2016 Rio Olympic final defeat to Carolina Marin.

Against all odds, reaching an Olympic final was an achievement in its own way for the Indian shuttler. The then 21-year-old was not even the main medal hopeful for India going into Rio Olympics. It was her compatriot Saina Nehwal who was the favourite to clinch a medal. Saina, who won the Bronze in 2012 London Olympics, suffered a disappointing early exit. Not many expected a medal from badminton following the mighty blow. But a young Sindhu had other plans.

Olympic glory

Seeded 9th in the draw in Group M, the tall Indian defeated Hungary’s Laura Sarosi and Canada’s Michelle Li before knocking out Tai Tzu-ying in the round of 16. She then stunned the second seeded Wang Yihan in the quarterfinals in straight sets. With an entire nation glued to the TV screen, Sindhu breezed past Japanese star Nozomi Okuhara in the semifinals, ensuring an Olympic medal for India.

With her aggressive approach, Sindhu was at the best form of her life, easing past global heavyweights. The stage was set for a high-octane final showdown with the top seed Carolina Marin. She gave her all, but the Spaniard was a step ahead of the Indian from the start. Sindhu had to settle for a Silver, yet she became the “Golden Girl” of Indian badminton.

Great things were expected from the Hyderabad shuttler following her dream Olympic run. But her sticky patch kicked-in with multiple final defeats. Sindhu did win few tournaments in that period like the India Open Superseries or the Korea Open Superseries. But her defeats in the finals kept rising as the Gold was eluding her.

Sindhu had to settle for a runner-up finish in Dubai World Superseries Finals, India Open, Commonwealth Games and two successive World Championships. It might have been difficult for many to overcome the “choker” tag, but it wasn’t the case with Sindhu.

She put in the hard yards under the watchful eyes of her coach Pullela Gopichand to fine tune her technique. With sheer persistence, Sindhu got her A-game back on track to end the barren streak.

Sindhu took only 38 minutes to beat Okuhara in the 2019 World Championships final, becoming the first Indian shuttler to win the coveted World Championships Gold.

Her resilience to not get bogged down from multiple final defeats will act as a valuable lesson for many to not give up in the face of despair. She is not just a role model for budding young shuttlers, but an inspiration for an entire generation of aspiring athletes.