"Words can’t express my feelings about yesterday’s win at the World Championship. Finally, the wait has ended”– Pusarla Venkata Sindhu wrote on her Instagram page, earlier last week, a few hours after winning gold at the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships 2019 in Basel, Switzerland.
The wait has indeed ended and Sindhu has created history by becoming the first Indian to win the championship. A gift to her mother, bringing home the title on her birthday, and for the country and fans, who poured in their love and applause.
Born to volleyball players – her father, PV Ramana is an Arjuna awardee – Sindhu’s foray into sports wasn’t unexpected. Her sister, PV Divya, is a national-level handball player as well.
Trained under Chief National Coach Pullela Gopichand, Sindhu turned heads with her international debut – a bronze medal at the 2009 Sub-Junior Asian Badminton Championships in Colombo, Sri Lanka. What followed was a steep rise winning some and losing some.
In a chat, she recollects that one of her career’s biggest achievements was beating London 2012 Olympics gold medalist, China’s Li Xuerui, at the Super Series Tournament. “It was my first major win. Li Xuerui was already an established player and had just won gold at the Olympics.
That match will always remain my most memorable one. It was very satisfying and of course, gave me a push at the beginning of my professional career,” says the Padma Shri awardee, during a telephonic conversation with us, a couple of days after her big win.
In the one-sided finals last week, the champion scored powerful smashes effortlessly to defeat Japanese player Nozomi Okuhara in just 38 minutes, two years after her 110-minute loss to the same player in the same BWF event.
With two consecutive wins (Basel and Guangzhou in December last year), she has become an example of an athlete with a tight grip on her career and image, putting all doubts over her ability to jump the final hurdle to rest. This certainly calls for a celebration! “The match ended in the evening. So I went out for a small dinner that night with my team.
Usually, I have ice cream but my sore throat didn’t cooperate this time. The next day, I left to India and it’s been quite hectic since then,” she shares.
Even after the achievement, the Hyderabad-born shuttler will not be flying off on a vacation to celebrate the win or at least take a few weeks off. Instead, she will be back on the court, prepping for the Olympic qualifiers, her second time at the international sports event.
There is no sign of regret, though. “There’s nothing like being on the court and playing badminton. I’m already looking forward to the upcoming practice sessions,” she says.
We’re convinced that it is this determination and love for her game that has brought her so far, making her the ‘golden girl of badminton’.
On returning to India, Sindhu flew directly to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before making her way to her hometown. She also addressed media and fans in Hyderabad, who received her with a lot of love and applause. For Sindhu, however, none of it is tiring. “The amount of love and appreciation I have received right from the Prime Minister to the fans at the airport... it makes me feel blessed and proud,” she admits.
Bond beyond the court
Even during our conversation with the champion, we notice that she is rather calm and quieter, unlike the aggressive, focused and competitive player that we see her as, on the court. When we mention it, she laughs it off, saying that though the atmosphere on the court can get quite stressful, she tries to keep it cool.
It’s the same principle she lives by when it comes to her relationship with opponents as well and her Instagram is proof.
Spanish player, Carolina Marin, who defeated Sindhu at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, shares a great bond with her, often commenting on Sindhu’s pictures. “When you’re playing against each other during a tournament, there is a rivalry. That’s inevitable.
But it ends there. Once the match is done, we catch up sometimes,” shares the 24-year-old, who apart from being one of the country’s best athletes, Sindhu has become a social media star too!
With more than one million followers on Instagram, she is quite an influencer.