In the Rio de Janeiro bubble – at her first Summer Olympics – she was without a phone.
The decision to forgo a must-have millennial device on the advice of its trainer – Pullela Gopichand – was a declaration of intent.
His weapon of choice in pursuit of history – a badminton racket.
It was a world far from the frenzied scenes that gripped a population of over a billion people here.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” she smiles.
“People were like, ‘You don’t know what it is in India. You may not even have expected it! Everywhere it’s broken […] Everyone sees TV. “
It was the culmination of years of selfless sacrifice, relentless routine, and stubborn determinism rooted in the heart of Hyderabad.
A darling of the nation was born overnight. A life beyond recognition would wait now.
Consultant, comforter, confidant
Its success is above all a family affair.
His father Ramana – who won bronze medal in volleyball at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul – acts as his “consultant”; his mother, Vijaya, his “quilt”; his sister, Divyaram, his “confidant”.
“It’s like a chain where everything is together […] They are your rock. These are your pillars. “
Inspired by the aforementioned Gopichand’s success at the prestigious All England Open badminton championships in 2001 – she made her first foray into the sport at the age of eight.
Each contributor’s commitment to the cause was clear from the start.
Sindhu and Ramana traveled 56 kilometers from their home to Gopichand Academy and returned each morning and evening, analyzing and watching the matches together. Meanwhile, Vijaya – who had chosen voluntary retirement – provided the food support at home, while Divyaram was the morale booster.
“If they (the sacrifices) had not been made, I would not have been here today.”
When the soft-spoken shuttler says a recurring phrase: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
For Sindhu, success involved many trials.
For six months in 2015, she experienced the pain of a stress fracture in her navicular bone – desperately clinging to her dream of a young Olympics. It was his most debilitating injury to date.
“I was so upset. I thought maybe I couldn’t do it.
But the word “reverse” does not appear in his sports lexicon.
‘I just have goose bumps’
Against all odds and on the world stage, the 21-year-old killed off the top seeds left, right and center before finally falling in an epic final against Spain’s Carolina Marin.
The series of small but not insignificant sacrifices combined with relentless repetition and resilience over the years had yielded a historic result.
“When I was on the podium I was sad for a minute. But then I thought I had what I didn’t expect in my life and I must be happy for it.”
It was then that she finally got her hands on her phone.
And what awaited him in India was a reception that crisscrossed generational and gender divisions as thousands lined the streets from Hyderabad International Airport to the Gopichand Badminton Academy.
“I can not explain it! […] I just have goose bumps. Like even now, it’s been four years! Showing the hairs standing along his arm.
Posts have poured into social media from politicians, actresses and actors.
“It took me days and days to respond,” she laughs.
“It was then that I realized the importance of this medal, the importance of the Olympic Games, the importance of returning this medal to the country.”
fame and fortune
With success has come a transformative level of exposure, recommendations and expectations.
Businesses overnight lined up in droves to partner with India’s most marketable female athlete.
Electronics maker Panasonic, automaker Bridgestone Tires, telecommunications giant Nokia, sports drink Gatorade to name a few.
“My life changed after the Olympics […] People are like “PV Sindhu is rich!” She said laughing.
She has become a household name in a country where cricketers are traditionally the most popular sports stars.
“When I was very young, I always wanted to give these autographs and photos – so I think I’m there right now.”
The billboards, posters, and cover magazines – Elle, Grazia, Verve – that still adorn and adorn her face are proof that, in her words, “I’m fine.”
Modest and philosophical at heart, she sees her high status not as a burden but as a blessing.
“Sport is a very small lifespan – you come, you win and you go. It won’t be forever where you keep winning all the time.”
Changing perceptions and opinions
Along with fellow badminton star Saina Nehwal, boxer Mary Kom and sprinter Dutee Chand, Sindhu is part of a generation led by women blazing a new path for sport and society in India, a country where perceptions of this that women can accomplish outside of the spinning stereotypes.
“Before I even started (playing badminton), it was more like ‘Girls shouldn’t go out and play sports – you have to stay home’. But in a few years he changed […] It is no longer that the girl has to stay at home. “
“No one should think that men are strong and women have nothing. No one should think that […] Women are strong enough to do whatever they want. “
His authenticity resonates with his five million fans on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook combined.
And it provides a gateway to openly discuss “ taboo ” topics such as menstruation.
“People tend to be shy […] They don’t speak for themselves thinking it’s a problem or a very important issue. That they shouldn’t be talking. It’s wrong. I would say that is not wrong. It’s natural. It’s going to be there for every woman. “
“Being a sportswoman, I would say it’s difficult,” reflecting on her own experiences.
“Sometimes there will be situations where when you play a game you won’t feel good, you will feel bad. You will have cramps. I wanted to get out of it because I want people to know that it is a normal process and you should be okay. “
‘I want to do even more’
Despite her star status, public scrutiny is never too far away.
A string of finalists in 2018 led critics to dub her ‘Silver Sindhu’.
“People started to ask me, ‘What’s going on? You get to the final – It’s the final phobia. So it all continued in my mind. “
His solution – meditation, inspired by his grandmother.
“When I was down, when I kept losing matches, it helped me where it made me think it was okay to lose. You have another way. You have a next time.”
“I thought I would just answer them with my racket.”
After losing back-to-back World Championship finals in 2017 and 2018, the following year won the gold that had eluded her – the very first Indian to do so.
As his Olympic silver medal exploits soon hit the big screen in the form of a biopic directed by prominent actor and producer Sonu Sood, Sindu’s desire to maintain the gold standard burns hot. .
His motivator? The fictional superhero “Wonder Woman”.
“(Winning the silver medal) was just another step […] I’m happy with what I’ve done but want to do more.
“I want to see myself as world No.1. I want to win an Olympic gold medal – It won’t be easy, but I would say it’s not difficult either.
“I have this ability. I have this passion. I have this courage. So why can’t I do it? I’m sure if I pushed this level I will definitely be there someday. . “