The much awaited mega sports event – Rio Olympics 2016 – is just two weeks away and the expectations are high. The Summer Games will take place from August 5 to August 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As compared to the participation of 83 athletes in London Olympics 2012, this time Rio will witness a massive Indian contingent of 121 athletes in 15 sports, India’s largest ever.
In the Summer Olympics 2012, out of the 83 Indian participants in 13 sports, a group of five athletes went for badminton. The five athletes were Parupalli Kashyap (men’s singles), Saina Nehwal (women’s singles), Jwala Gutta (women’s doubles, mixed doubles), Ashwini Ponappa (women’s doubles) and Valiyaveetil Diju (mixed doubles). For the Rio Olympics, apart from the generally larger group, even the numbers in the badminton team has increased to seven. The seven badminton players going to Rio are Srikanth Kidambi (men’s singles), Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy (men’s doubles), Saina Nehwal (women’s singles), Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (women’s singles), Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa (women’s doubles).
Following is PV Sindhu, up-front-and close with Millennium Post.
Considering that this will be your first ever Olympics appearance, how excited or nervous are you?
I’m not really nervous but I’m actually very excited. This will be my first Olympics and I’m completely looking forward to it. I’m not stressing about it and I only want to give it my best.
The Olympics are just about two weeks away, so what is the one specific thing you’re working on in relation to your game?
I’m actually working on all my strokes, that is, both my attack and defence. A few months back, since I had time at my disposal, I was working on specific details particularly my defence but now when the games are so close, I have to work on my all-round game.
Though both your mother and father have represented India in an unusual sport for the country (volleyball), what made you choose badminton?
It was completely my own interest and my parents fully supported me and encouraged me to pursue the sport. In the beginning, I used to play only for fun but then I started playing daily. I used to play near my house for a year or two and then I got sort of serious about pursuing it as a career and joined Gopichand Badminton Academy and started playing professionally.
How does it feel to see other sports beginning to build some base in our nation?
It feels great. There wasn’t much scope for many sports earlier but it has started to change from the past few years and it’s nice to see. Even badminton has come up so much and with the Badminton Premier League and all, the sport has grabbed quite a lot of eyeballs, I can surely tell that to you.
So you think Badminton Premier League has helped the sport in the country despite the fact that it still struggles for comprehensive viewership?
Most definitely. It was surely tougher in the beginning. When the league started, things were different. But with time and more and more inclusion of foreign players, the league developed a certain quality and hence, even the viewership has risen now. There’s even quite a lot of crowd in the stadiums during the games.
What do you have to say about the chances of facing Saina in the Olympics?
Well, the competition happens in two stages, the league stage and then the knockouts. So we won’t be pitted against each other in the league stage but yes, there are chances of us facing each other in the later stages.
Exactly! And if that happens…
I’ll play aggressively (chuckles). Of course, on court, I’ll focus on the game and play my own because you do not want your opponent to win.
What would go through your mind at that time and how would you look to beat her considering she’s the one the nation is betting upon?
Absolutely! She is a senior player and has been in excellent form recently but I won’t be thinking about that. Obviously, off-court everything is normal but when you’re in the game, you want to win and that’s exactly how I’ll approach it.
In that scenario, will it become a battle for individual honour more than the idea of representing the country?
Yes. It’s like obviously whoever out of the both of us wins, the country stays in the competition, so that’s a good thing but individually, you’re participating to win so it rounds up to that eventually.
Realistically speaking, how far do you see yourself in the competition?
I do see myself doing well. I, or rather all of us, are working very hard for this and we want to do our best. So, ultimately it boils down to each game. Every game has to be treated carefully and I’ll put my entire effort into winning it.
Your determination and hard work is something that has been spoken about extensively, I wish to ask what inspires you to put your all into the game?
Especially for Olympics, it’s not like it happens every year. It happen once in four years. So, everyone’s aim is to win a medal. We’re aware that the competition is going to be very tough and winning a medal would require a lot of hard work and concentration and so, you put it. You can’t achieve anything without working hard towards it and so that’s the inspiration.
What do you have to say about the government’s attitude towards facilitating all the sports, especially for the Olympics?
The government has been extremely helpful. With TOP scheme and various others, they’ve provided us everything that we needed. We haven’t been deprived of anything and there’s been constant support from the government for us to improve our game and prepare ourselves for the Olympics.
It’s always said that playing at home gives one an advantage because of the crowd support; that’s how important crowd is. What do you have to say about that?
Definitely. Crowd support helps a lot and for us, it has been like we do find support from the stands even outside home and that’s wonderful. Like we’ll be playing away from home in Rio but we’re hopeful of the support. We’ve always managed to find support wherever we’ve played and that feels great. That surely pumps you up.
Any last words for your fans and the ones who’ll be watching you represent the country?
I’d just like to thank everyone for their support and prayers. It has most definitely always helped me and yes, I’m extremely thankful.
The country’s torch in the world of badminton and sports, as a whole, is definitely in strong and determined hands. With the kind of confidence Sindhu has displayed in her abilities, which is of course backed by her performances, the medal hopes of the country seem safe. With the kind of talent that is going to represent India in Rio Olympics, one can surely hope for some medals and feel bright and elated about the future of sports in the second most populous country of the world.
Childhood – Began playing at the age of 8
2009 – Bronze in Sub-Junior Asian Badminton Championships (Colombo)
2010 – Silver (singles category) in Iran Fajr International Badminton Challenge
2012 – Winner of Asia Youth U-19 Championship Runner-up in Syed Modi India Grand Prix Gold event Reached her career best ranking of 15
2013 – Won Malaysia Open Became India’s first medallist in women’s singles at the Badminton World Championships Winner of Macau Open Grand Prix Gold title Received Arjuna award from the Government of India
2014 – Reached semi-finals of Glasgow Commonwealth Games Created history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back medals in World Badminton Championships Became FICCI Breakthrough Sportsperson of the Year Won NDTV Indian of the Year award
2015 – Won Macau Open Grand Prix Gold Received Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour
2016 – Winner of Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold Current ranking – World number 10 (April 7, 2016) Highest ranking – World number 9 (March 13, 2014)