Indian badminton got its first taste of an Olympic medal when Saina Nehwal broke the deadlock with her bronze at London 2012.
marked the nation’s rise as a badminton powerhouse and the feat of a 21-year-old four years later helped set the bar even higher.
on august 19, 2016, pv sindhu fought hard in the final of the rio 2016 olympic games, but ultimately finished with the silver medal, a monumental effort that led the world and the Indian at his feet.
It may have come as a surprise to the global audience, but pv sindhu has been steadily rising in the years leading up to the rio 2016 olympics.
the road to the rio 2016 olympic games
pusarla venkata sindhu was born into a family of athletes, and her parents represented india in volleyball.
Her older sister was a national level handball player, but it was badminton that caught the young Sindhu’s attention and she eventually honed her skills with English champion and Indian badminton legend pullela gopichand.
The young runner would travel 56 kilometers to the gopichand badminton academy, showing her immense dedication and passion for the sport. She soon paid off when Sindhu began to make an impact on the international stage.
in 2012, she won the under-19 asian badminton title, beating her now-famous rival nozomi okuhara, before upsetting london 2012 gold medalist li xuerui at the china masters .
The victory against Li Xuerui certainly proved to be a turning point for India.
Further successes followed, including her first grand prix gold title, India’s first women’s singles medal at the world championships, and a bronze at the commonwealth games.
She also claimed a second bronze at the 2014 world championships in copenhagen, falling in the semi-finals to carolina marin, a name that would feature prominently in pv sindhu’s historic moments to come.
amazing river race for pv sindhu
As a young 21-year-old midfielder, no one in India knew what to expect from Pv Sindhu in their opening games.
pv sindhu had performed well in major tournaments but had to overcome a serious stress fracture in 2015 to make it to the rio 2016 olympics. it was a daunting task even for the best in the world, not to mention a player just a few years into adulthood.
then when saina nehwal, the undisputed star of indian badminton at the time, fell in the group stage after a loss against ukrainian maria ulitina, most viewers waved goodbye to india’s chance to get another medal in badminton.
However, rather than feel overwhelmed by the attention saina nehwal’s departure had brought her, pv sindhu accepted the pressure.
“I wasn’t thinking about the medal from the beginning. Looking at the difficult draw, she knew that she had to think about one match at a time.”
pv sindhu found himself in a group with laura sarosi from hungary and michelle li from canada.
the indian shuttler made quick work of laura sarosi in her first match, beating her 21-8, 21-9. pv sindhu then held her nerve against michelle li, whom she had lost to at the 2014 glasgow commonwealth games, in a 19-21, 21-15, 21-17 victory to advance to the round of 16.
In the previous quarters, pv sindhu scored arguably their most impressive win yet, as they outclassed tai tzu-ying of china taipei 21-13, 21-15. Shuttle’s incredible form continued as she edged out Wang Yihan for the second time in two years, 22-20, 21-19, to reach the semifinals.
Waiting for her in the semifinals was second-seeded Nozomi Okuhara, whom pv sindhu had only beaten once at the time, and her games tended to last the full three games.
however hyderabadi shuttler was in inspired form as he took advantage of okuhara’s errors to set a rhythm and eventually win 21-19, 21-10.
It was the first time Sindhu had beaten his Japanese counterpart in back-to-back games and it was the best possible way to reach the final, the furthest any Indian midfielder had ever gone in the Olympics.
marathon effort at the 2016 olympic badminton final
the final pitted pv sindhu against the then two time world champion and no. 1 carolina marina.
It was a stressful match for both the players and the spectators. pv sindhu started brilliantly and endured long rallies to win the opening game.
However, Marín came from behind in the second – the Spanish midfielder was quick on the pitch and decisive with her shots – to win in just 20 minutes.
“carolina was playing really well in the second,” pv sindhu told the dna website. “I was like ‘let’s play,’ but even then I didn’t leave it at that and tried really hard.”
With steady momentum from Marin, the top seed turned PV Sindhu around in the deciding game to beat them 19-21, 21-12, 21-15 and take home the Olympic gold medal.
“I never gave up until the end”, said the Indian. “I came back from 16-19 to win five points in a row to win the first game. therefore, it always crossed my mind that anything could still happen.”
pv sindhu may have fallen in the final, but it made her the first Indian badminton player to become a silver medalist at the Olympics.
More importantly for pv sindhu, the olympic medal gave him the springboard to become the undisputed star of Indian badminton.
“life has changed both on and off the court after winning the medal at the rio olympic games. now I have a lot of confidence on the court and I feel that everything is possible”
He took that confidence and built on it, racking up more medals along the way, including at the BWF World Championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
in 2019, pv sindhu won her first gold medal at the bwf world championships in india and she took the world champion title from carolina marin, who had defeated pv sindhu in the final of the rio olympics .
Over the years, pv sindhu has become a consistent player at major badminton events.
at tokyo 2020, pv sindhu further cemented her claim to greatness by winning the bronze medal in women’s singles and becoming the first Indian woman to win two Olympic medals.