It’s true—PV Sindhu’s smile is infectious, and her indomitable spirit is sure to rub off on you. After a brief conversation with her, I feel determined to go for a run tomorrow! I extended my best wishes to her on representing India at the Olympics 2021. “Thank you!” she accepts, “I am really excited and looking forward to it. We were prepared for the Olympics last year, but it got pushed due to the pandemic.” She’s set and raring to go; the only dampener, she sighs, is that there won’t be much of a crowd for the games. Here’s ELLE India in a breezy chat with India’s favourite name in badminton, PV Sindhu:
ELLE: You are the first female Indian athlete to win an Olympic silver medal in 2016 in Rio and the first Indian to win the World Championship in 2019. How are you handling the pressure for the upcoming games?
PV SINDHU (PVS): I know people have heightened expectations from me now. I am trying to stay focused and concentrate on my game. I am taking one day at a time as it helps me to stay calm and not crumble under pressure.
ELLE: How is the preparation coming along?
PVS: I took the downtime in my stride despite being in my best form last year. I utilised the break to spend time with my family and worked hard to improve my overall skill. My on-court training begins at 7 am, so I have to wake up early. It gets over by 9:30 am, post which I get home for breakfast and rest before heading out for my off-court training; it goes on from the afternoon till evening. I get to rest on Sundays and unwind by playing with my nephew and my dog. I also started painting last year and find it therapeutic. If I can make time, I enjoy watching a web series, some Telugu and Bollywood films, and listen to music. I also play golf and tennis for fun.
ELLE: What is your matchday routine like?
PVS: I believe in God and pray before a match. On a matchday morning, I do stretching exercises, hit the gym and then rest before afternoon matches or take a nap if it’s in the evening. I reach the venue an hour before the game to ensure I get enough time to warm up. Post-match, I have a session with my physiotherapist. If I win, then I prepare for the next one, and if I lose, I give myself a little treat, say, a burger maybe (she chuckles).
ELLE: Who are your dream opponents?
PVS: It has to be the legendary two-time Olympics champion, Chinese player Lin Dan. I did actually get a chance to play with him in mixed doubles. If I have to pick a second one, it’s the Danish player Peter Gade.
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ELLE: Who has had the maximum influence in your career, and how does it feel to be considered a nationwide inspiration?
PVS: My parents—they’re both former national-level volleyball players—are my role models. They understand that winning is not always the priority. I have come this far under their support and guidance. My dad is extremely involved in my career—he offers feedback and helps me strategise. Being held as inspiration by the country gives me a sense of responsibility and purpose.
ELLE: Tell us about a couple of your fondest badminton memories.
PVS: As a kid, I started crying once on losing a game and kept insisting the referee let me play another match. My dad had to console me! It’s one of the funniest memories for me. A precious recent memory is of winning the World Championship 2019. Coincidentally, it was also my mom’s birthday. There couldn’t have been a better gift than winning a gold medal for her.
ELLE: What do you think about the changing landscape of sports for women in India?
PVS: There used to be a lot of gender bias, both in sports and in general. But women are breaking stereotypes to fulfil their true potential. In badminton, the pay disparity between genders is now being bridged—we are getting paid at par with men. Female athletes are climbing the graph and increasingly excelling in their sports.
ELLE: What is your message to young sports aspirants?
PVS: Keep working hard! Success may take time and is relative. So enjoy the process and be passionate. There will be ups and downs, but you need to keep up the spirit and be consistent. I would also request parents to come forth and encourage their children in taking up sports or any kind of physical activity for overall wellness. They need to tap into their children’s inclination, be supportive and believe in them.
Photograph: Kalyan Yasaswi
Find ELLE’s June 2021 issue on stands or download your digital copy here.