Paris Olympics: PV Sindhu shapes up for a shot at third medal in Saarbrucken

The game has been changing rapidly in every edition, double medallist says from her base in Germany

PV Sindhu at Prakash Padukone's facility in Bengaluru (photo: @PVSindhu/X)
PV Sindhu at Prakash Padukone's facility in Bengaluru (photo: @PVSindhu/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

As the only Indian sportswoman with two Olympic medals and a former world champion’s tag, PV Sindhu already enjoys a special place in the pantheons of the country’s sporting greats. However, as she braces up for a possible third Olympics podium finish in Paris in a month’s time, the badminton ace admits that her journey from Tokyo over the last three-year cycle had been the toughest one.   

‘’Yes, it’s been very challenging times with the knee injury ruling me out for a long period of time. Injuries are a part of our lives but it has also taught me to be stronger, fight each day and stay in the race. Thankfully, I am now ready,’’ said Sindhu, currently in the thick of final phase of her preparation in the serene surroundings of Saarbrucken in Germany.

The whole of 2023 had been a trying one for her as the prolonged time off due to injuries combined with a dip in form – which saw the former world No.1 slipping well below 10 in the BWF rankings. A desperate Sindhu rung in frequent changes in her coaching personnel as she also shifted base from home town in Hyderabad to Bengaluru to rope in the legendary Prakash Padukone as a mentor – a move that she feels has benefitted her immensely.

Speaking to selected media during a virtual interaction hosted by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Sunday, Sindhu was – as they say – cautiously optimistic about a third medal at the greatest show on earth. ‘’I will give it my 100 per cent to change the colour of the medal. While I have the experience of two Olympics behind me, I need to also work smarter this time as everyone is familiar with each other’s game in the circuit,’’ noted Sindhu, who lost the Rio 2016 final to Carolina Marin for silver and finished with a bronze in Tokyo.    

While a billion hopes will be that the 28-year-old can strike gold this time around, Sindhu gives a reality check that it won’t be easy. ‘’The sport is changing between each Olympics – it has become a game of longer rallies now with no player wanting to give easy points. The defence of every player has improved and there will be no easy games. A lot about my chances will depend on the draw but I will maintain the same focus against every opponent, irrespective of their rankings,’’ Sindhu said from Hermann-Neuberger Sportschule (LSVS) in Saarbrucken, Germany, her base for the past month.

The run-up to the Games had not been an ideal one for the ace this year as her title drought continued – with the closest she came to ending it was at the Malasyia Masters in May where she lost her only final in 2024 against Wang Zhi Yi of China after winning the first game. The Asian Tour also saw her being stretched to three games more frequently than in the past – but Sindhu sought to move on from it.

 "Well, I ought to have won in Malasyia but sadly, it was not my day. I would also like to finish matches in two games rather than three but if it continues for more than an hour, I have now come back stronger and handle it,’’ she said.

Sindhu’s current entourage comprises foreign coach Agus Dwi Santosa, her latest recruit from last January, while the Union Sports Ministry has so far invested to the tune of Rs 2.76 crores for her in the current Olympic cycle under the Target Olympics Podium Scheme (TOPS).  Asked what prompted her think tank to choose the facility for training, Sindhu said that working in isolation has helped her focus on the job on hand.

‘’I am closer to Paris and it’s certainly helping me to acclimatise to the weather conditions which I will get there. There is no distraction as the facility is in an isolated location and that is certainly helping me to focus on the job at hand,’’ said Sindhu, who also has a number of sparring partners for hitting.

 Finally, any word of advice for the first-time Olympians who would be a part of the Indian contingent? ‘’Try to enjoy it, though it’s easier said than done,’’ Sindhu signed off with a smile.

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