Dubai: The last time PV Sindhu, women’s singles world champion badminton player of India, stepped onto the court for a competitive match was in mid-March when she lost in the quarter finals of All England Open Badminton Championship.
When she put herself into self quarantine on returning from Birmingham, the 25-year-old thought it was just a welcome temporary break – with plenty to look forward for - including the Tokyo Olympics. Nearly five months down the line, with the Olympic Games being cancelled and no sign of the international badminton calendar resuming this year, Sindhu had come to reconcile herself with the new normal in the hope that she would be able the courts at at Gopichand Academy soon.
Finally on Friday, her prayers were answered as she hit the strides under the watchful eyes of Pullela Gopichand and Korean coach Park Tae Sang following the Telengana government’s clearance for sportspersons to resume outdoor activities from August 1.
‘‘I had been doing physical fitness training with my trainer Srikanth Sir but didn’t know when the season will resume,’’ said Sindhu, who would be completing an year of winning the gold medal at the Worlds on August 25 last year.
Speaking to Gulf News during an exclusive interview from Hyderabad, the Olympic silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Games said the world title was like getting a huge load off his chest. ‘‘Yes, it will be one year of the triumph on August 25, I had won two silver and two bronze medals before that and people had started talking about it asking if I had a final phobia,’’ recalled Sindhu.
‘‘I went back, learnt from my mistakes and came back more stronger and it was a much-awaited win. I am happy that I could give an answer with the racket,’’ she said.
A gold may have taken some time in coming, but Sindhu became an overnight sensation of the endorsement sector of India ever since her silver medal in Rio. It was in August last year when Forbes India rated her joint 13th in the list of Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2019 with annual earnings of of $5.5 million, with former world No.1 tennis icon Serena Williams topping the list.
She still continues to be the country’s best bet among non-cricket athletes as a brand ambassador, but the middle class grounding which she received from her parents - P.V.Ramana and Vijaya, both former volleyball players - ensured that she remained rooted and never lost her focus from the game.
‘‘Oh yes, I was really very happy to see my name at Forbes, me in the top list with names like Serena (Williams). It’s been a motivating thing for me,’’ she said.
After being a creature of habit for nearly the last 15 years of her life, life had undergone a sea change for the ace shuttler in the last few months. ‘‘Yes, I was at home for so long for the first time in many years. I enjoyed spending time with my family, learnt some new craft like painting and cooking – and spent a lot of time with my nephew,’’ she said.
We were all set for the Games with just had a few months left but unfortunately, this virus came. Yes, I was certainly a bit upset. However, I realised it’s more important for people to be stay safe and safe healthy. When it somes to crunch, life comes first
It was on March 24 when Sindhu, like thousands of other aspirants of the Olympic glory, had their worst fears coming true when the Tokyo Olympics was postponed to 2021. Asked if it was a tough blow as she must have been conjuring up plans to end the final jinx in Tokyo as details, Sindhu agreed: ‘‘We were all set for the Games with just had a few months left but unfortunately, this virus came. Yes, I was certainly a bit upset. However, I realised it’s more important for people to be stay safe and safe healthy. When it somes to crunch, life comes first.
‘‘However, they have already announced the new dates. I had to stay positive and be patient,’’ said Sindhu, whose next assignment could be the Thomas and Uber Cups in October.
Finally, what will be her message to the fans and the country in general during these tough times with the COVID-19 cases shooting through the roof? ‘‘It’s very important to be patient…you also have to keep yourselves busy. Try to engage in some physical activities or else you may be gripped by negative thoughts,’’ Sindhu added.