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Gunning for glory

Gearing up for the 17th Asian Games and harping on her newly acquired confidence after winning a bronze in the just-concluded World Championship, 19-year-old shuttler PV Sindhu is all set to take the court by storm again. Today, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is among the list of badminton players who are doing India proud on the world stage and giving new hope to the next generation to keep the show running.

Following a rigorous training session at her home town Hyderabad, Sindhu says: ‘My practice starts at 4.30 am and continues till 7.30 am. Then again, I train from 8.30-9 am to 12 pm. The next session begins from 4 pm to 6.30 pm.’

When girls of her age are busy enjoying life, Sindhu follows a very disciplined schedule in order to rise up the ranking charts. Only last week, Sindhu re-entered the top-10 in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings,   owing to her bronze medal finish at the worlds. She has climbed up two places to be at number 10 as Saina Nehwal still remains the top-ranked Indian at No 7.
Sindhu is just 19 and she already has big victories at big events. This year has been truly rewarding for her. She has already won four major medals in the Asian championship, world championship, Commonwealth Games and the Uber Cup.

As Sindhu focuses on her journey to take on the mighty Chinese, Korean and Thai opponents at Incheon, South Korea, in the Asian Games, she is not overawed by them and is up and ready for the challenge. ‘Asian Games is going to be a tough tournament. I always wanted to play in the Olympics and Asian Games. In a few days’ time, I will play in the Asian Games for the first time,’ she said.
So, does she prepare differently to take on powerful competitors? ‘It’s a different game with everyone. It is very important to strategise properly and with perfection. Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand is a pillar of strength and helps us a lot. There are other coaches too who guide us in our game and help us improve upon it.’

She further adds: ‘Gopi Sir’s academy is an excellent one. There are very talented coaches who take care of us with proper guidance and support. The physios work very hard to keep us fighting fit.
On her elevation into top 10 rankings, Sindhu said, ‘I am very happy to have re-entered the top-10 bracket in the latest BWF rankings.’ She has definitely worked very hard for this feat. Travelling for almost 27 kms everyday to train at Gopichand’s academy, Sindhu says: ‘It was very difficult initially. Later, we shifted to a different house which was closer to the academy. It was very difficult to manage studies and my game together.

But I enjoyed playing badminton since my very childhood and was ready to do anything for the sport.’ She further said her school and college provided tremendous support to pursue her career in badminton. Currently, Sindhu is a student of BCom IIIrd year.

Born to PV Ramana and P Vijaya, both of whom were former volleyball players, Sindhu won her first medal at the 2009 Sub-Junior Asian Badminton Championships held in Colombo. Following up on her achievements in Sri Lanka, she won silver at the 2010 Iran Fajr International Badminton Challenge and also participated in the Junior World Badminton Championships in Mexico; bowing out in the quarter-finals. So, was she always interested in badminton? ‘I used to play badminton for fun. I always liked the sport and eventually decided to take it forward.’

Sindhu is always working on her mistakes and trying to rectify them. ‘We can’t give our 100 per cent every time. Sometimes you may play brilliantly and sometimes nothing may go in your favour. I always try to learn from my mistakes and rectify them.’

The 19-year-old’s performances received recognition and she is gradually shuttling to fame, putting India at the top with every tournament. She was awarded FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) Breakthrough Sportsperson of the Year earlier this year. The Asian Games in Incheon will give the star shuttler a bigger platform for yet another time.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about Saina Nehwal and Sindhu’s rivalry. Some feel Saina was increasingly feeling uncomfortable to train with the teenager. So, is this the main reason for Saina’s decision to split with Gopichand? ‘We are rivals on court. She is a very good player, very aggressive, very powerful.’ It’s true the contests between the two have always been remarkable.

Sindhu has emerged as a teenage sensation and a super star for women who have always wanted to pursue badminton as a career. So, is women badminton coming of age? Definitely yes and with more such victories, Sindhu will continue to inspire more and more girls to take up the sport. So, with the Asian Games coming up, the gold will certainly be a target but whether Sindhu will be able to play to the best of her potential remains to be seen. The story will unfold in Incheon from 19 September.

Nine years & going strong

PV Sindhu has been training under coach Gopichand for nine years now. Her training in badminton began when she was just 8-years-old. At 10, she began to train under Gopichand and eventually, he became her mentor and his academy became her nurturing ground. Coach Pullela Gopichand has single handedly brought about a paradigm shift in badminton in India. He opened his own academy, aspiring to provide world-class facilities to budding Indian talents.

Players can avail various facilities here like a dormitory, swimming pool, health club, football ground, running track and last but not the least a well-stocked cafeteria. Sindhu has been a dedicated student ever since she started playing the sport. She trains tirelessly from dawn to dusk everyday. She has no time to go out for get togethers or social gatherings, no holidays, movies or parties. She spends all her days in perfecting moves, smashes, volleys and work on her game. The young teenager has already begun to break barriers with her consistent efforts. As she marches on, she is ready to challenge the mighty Chinese and take on the world in her stride.
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