We all love world champions, do we not? Our newest darling is P.V. Sindhu, just 24 and in a league of her own after claiming the title at the Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, on August 25, defeating Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. Sindhu was a picture of confidence and grace. With the Olympics just a year away, Pullela Gopichand is already figuring out a strategy for his star player, who, while thanking her coach profusely, dedicated the victory to her mother, whose birthday was on the same day. Sindhu also acknowledged the invaluable help she received from her strength trainer, Srikanth Verma.
But for me, the one person who stood out during Sindhu’s hour of glory was P.V. Ramana, her father, the man who has been her chief motivator from the time she started playing badminton. Not only does he drive her to training sessions, but he also gives his daughter a 30-minute nightly massage to help her sleep better. Sindhu is fortunate to have parents who have put their own lives on hold so that she can fulfill her dreams.
As I read a stream of congratulatory messages pouring in, I was trying to visualise the domestic scene in Basel. The lives of our sportspeople are exceedingly demanding, with zero time to unwind or just do nothing. I recall reading a candid interview with Roger Federer, in which he admits how strenuous it is for competitive athletes to endure punishing schedules without the luxury of switching off. He talked about rushing to the airport, getting into his private plane and jetting off, minutes after each match. He wistfully confessed how he missed the leisure of enjoying a dinner date over wine with his wife, after clinching the title in an exotic destination.
Well, the rewards are plentiful. So, I guess giving up on precious ‘we time’ with a partner does not hurt as much. But our beautiful young badminton champ is single and still in her twenties. I see her at glam events, clad in couture. She speaks articulately and naturally about life off the court. The mother in me gets all mushy. I want to see her with a supportive life partner some day soon.
Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza seem to have worked out their personal spaces very skillfully. Saina’s husband (Parupalli Kashyap) belongs to her world. Sania’s cricketer husband (Shoaib Malik) lives across the border, and has always been acutely sensitive towards his wife’s commitment to tennis.
From the outside, the high profile world of our sports stars appears dazzling and glorious—which it is! But when one thinks of the sweat and slog involved in staying ahead in competitive sports, it is gruelling and taxing to say the least.
Sindhu has not had it easy. Since the Olympics in 2016, she has lost 10 finals and won six titles. She has had to fight off the ‘choker in finals’ title. But with this decisive win, she has silenced all doubters and critics.
It is a great time to be a supernova in the sports arena. And Sindhu should enjoy every bit of her success. This Hyderabadi girl says she enjoys biryani and pizza. Let us hope she gets to eat both, at least occasionally. Listed at number 13 among the highest paid female athletes, and with a Padma Shri (2015) to her name, our achiever is inspiring countless young girls to take up a sport of their choice, and give it their best.
With her impressive height and toned frame, she is a sought after model, gracing covers of international fashion magazines and wowing front-row fashionistas as a showstopper. There is no stopping our high octane shuttler, who has her eyes set on the Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.