PV Sindhu and How Nerves of Steel Meet Medals of Gold
PV Sindhu won the gold medal in women's singles at the 2022 CWG.
The Quint DAILY
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There she was occupying the top spot on the podium with the gleaming gold medal dangling around her neck. A heap of pride flashed across her face and made itself apparent through an elusive smile as the Indian national anthem occupied the court.
It’s a sight that is becoming increasingly familiar with the passage of time and one that Indian sports fans can’t seem to get tired of. Still only 27, it seems bizarre that Sindhu has been pulling rabbits out of hats and smashing her opponents to slumber for an eternity now.
Maybe it has to do with the veteran poise and professionalism that she has carried herself with for the majority of her career. Maybe it also arises from the fact that ever since she broke into the upper echelons of the sport, the grandest tournaments are where she truly comes alive and etches her name in glory.
A double-Olympic medalist and a five-time World Championships medalist, including winning the gold in 2019, Sindhu has now won gold for the first time in the Commonwealth Games to add to her tally of bronze and silver medals from the 2014 and 2018 tournaments. It’s an incredible and glittering body of work that ranks her among the finest sportspersons to emerge out of the country.
During the Commonwealth Games final in Birmingham, Sindhu made light work of the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Michelle Li and secured a comprehensive 21-15, 21-13 victory in straight sets. To be brutally honest, besides the quarter-final affair against Malaysia’s Goh Wei Jin, where she scored a 21-12, 21-11 win, she had hardly been put to the test in Birmingham.
However, the 27-year-old’s campaign in the Commonwealth Games has once again highlighted the supreme physical and mental conditioning she possesses as an athlete. Even on the final day of the Games, she showed no signs of fatigue and held her own even in long rallies against Li.
Remaining sharp is a crucial part of Sindhu’s regime as an athlete and it’s not surprising that a large segment of her training involving coach Park Tae-sang and strength and conditioning trainer Srikanth Verma is centred around keeping her in tip-top shape physically and hungry to succeed. In an era where most of her peers and competitors from Carolina Marina and Akane Yamaguchi have been plagued with injuries, Sindhu has consistently avoided big issues.
With her coach Tae-sang, who began training her just before the pandemic struck, Sindhu started shoring up her defensive game, which had been long identified as a vulnerability. A greater flexibility to bend herself towards shots aimed low near the net before hurrying for blocks at the far corner with the hand going in the reverse direction has also been a visibly improved element of her game over the past year.
With Verma, Sindhu has worked extensively on her footwork and striding that allows someone as tall as her to be more explosive and mobile on the court. Meanwhile, recovery protocols include water immersion, band stretches, hot water, jacuzzi, and ice baths.
Then there’s the mental aspect which defines PV Sindhu’s career. She possesses what millennials call the ‘clutch gene’ that allows her to dig deep within her reserves and find an extra gear when her back is against the wall.
How many times has she bounced back from a situation in a knockout match that looked almost irreversible? How many times has she snatched a game from the jaws of defeat even when her opponent had taken an insurmountable lead?
This indomitable relentlessness that would make even Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal proud and a tad bit envious is probably what makes her the biggest big-game hunter in the Indian sports.
Knowing the temperament an elite and competitive athlete like her possesses, the Commonwealth gold has probably already become an afterthought for Sindhu. The World Championships are set to begin soon and rest and recovery will be high on the agenda list.
Having tasted gold in 2019, the 27-year-old will not be content with settling for anything less. The field is stacked more strongly at the Worlds compared to the Birmingham Games but the added competition and intensity only plays to her strengths, if anything. The PV Sindhu juggernaut is raring to go full steam ahead and it’s a privilege of the highest order to witness her in action.
(Anjishnu Roy is a freelance sports writer and journalist. When he's not busy trying to capture the highs and lows of professional sports through words, he's probably raving about a Denis Villeneuve or Asghar Farhadi film.)
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