Sindhu: Workload ‘a bit tough but I enjoy it’

The badminton star admits her “life has changed a lot” following Olympics success.

P. V. Sindhu at The Huddle - a thoughts and ideas conclave - in Bengaluru on Sunday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Nothing in Indian badminton's recent history has quite had a nation on tenterhooks as two of P. V. Sindhu's matches over the last 18 months.

The first of those was her final at the Olympic Games in Rio, where she lost to Spain's Carolina Marin; the second her gruelling, marathon battle with Nozomi Okuhara for the World Championship in Glasgow. The first catapulted her to stardom; the second only reinforced her status as one of India's finest athletes.

In the year between the two events, Sindhu evolved greatly as a player. "I had to work on each and every stroke after Rio," she told journalist Prem Panicker at The Huddle here on Sunday. "I kept on learning. Strategy plays a very important role. Carolina is an aggressive player; Okuhara is a rally player. Women's badminton has changed a lot. Now games are extending to one-and-a-half or two hours; endurance is very important."

Lots to do

Last year was a good one for Sindhu - two Super Series titles and a World Championship silver, not to forget her reaching two other major finals - but she has her sights set on a lot more in 2018. "There is a lot to do this year. I want to win more - there's the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games, the Worlds and the All England Championships. I'm aiming higher," she said.

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There has been much opposition to the Badminton World Federation's freshly-introduced regulations, which make it mandatory for the top 15 players to play a minimum of 12 tournaments on the new World Tour, but Sindhu was not particularly concerned. "After the calendar is out, you can't do anything about it," she said. "You should know which tournaments to play and which not to; you have to discuss that with your coach and decide for yourself."

Given her unforgiving calendar (she trains seven hours a day, and then there are the tournaments), did Sindhu find time for a personal life, Panicker wondered. She was, he reminded the gathering, still only 22. "It's a bit tough but I enjoy it," she smiled. "I don't take it as a burden. Age is not a matter to think about. I don't feel I'm only 22 because if you think that and think there's a long way to go, you never know where you will be."

‘Just the beginning’

Life had changed immeasurably after the Olympics, Sindhu admitted. “I'm very happy; after the Olympics my life has changed a lot. Having this fan following, this limelight, I'm really enjoying it. My father has always told me one thing: 'No matter how high you go, you always have to be grounded.' I really follow that. Even when you're on top of the world, you should remember where you've come from.”

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She had not forgotten, Sindu said, the sacrifices of her parents. “My mother had to retire from the Railways. We had to move house because I was traveling 27 km each way for training every day. My parents have sacrificed a lot more than I have. Some of their colleagues and neighbours felt I would succeed neither at badminton nor academics. But my parents believed in me.”

It is worth considering that Sindhu's best could yet lie ahead of her. “This is just the beginning for me,” she said. “It's not that I won a medal at the Olympics and I am done. There are many more medals I have to get.”