Friday, 19 August 2016



Profile of 2 Champions

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (born 5 July 1995) is an Indian badminton player.

On 10 August 2013, Sindhu became the first ever Indian women's singles player to win a medal at the World Championships. On 30 March 2015, she received India's fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri. On 18 August 2016, she became the first Indian woman to reach Olympic finals after beating Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the semi-finals of Rio Olympics 2016. She broke into the Top 20 in the Badminton World Federation rankings released on 21 September 2012.

Sindhu's father Ramana is himself an Arjuna Awardee. Ramana represented India in Volleyball. On 18 August 2016 Sindhu beat Japanese badminton player Nozomi Okuhara in Rio Olympics 2016 to enter into the finals of Badminton singles and assuring India of a medal in badminton.

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu was born to P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya – both former volleyball players. Ramana also won the Government of India-instituted 2000 Arjuna Award for his sport. Though her parents played professional volleyball, Sindhu chose badminton over it because she drew inspiration from the success of Pullela Gopichand, the 2001 All England Open Badminton Champion. She eventually started playing badminton from the age of eight.

Sindhu first learned the basics of the sport with the guidance of Mehboob Ali at the badminton courts of Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications in Secunderabad. Soon after she joined Pullela Gopichand's badminton academy.

The fact that she reports on time at the coaching camps daily, travelling a distance of 56 km from her residence, is perhaps a reflection of her willingness to complete her desire to be a good badminton player with the required hard work and commitment.

Gopichand seconded this correspondent's opinion when he said that "the most striking feature in Sindhu's game is her attitude and the never-say-die spirit." After joining Gopichand's badminton academy, Sindhu won several titles. In the under-10 years category, she won the 5th Servo All India ranking championship in the doubles category and the singles title at the Ambuja Cement All India ranking. In the under-13 years category, Sindhu won the singles title at the Sub-juniors in Pondicherry, doubles titles at the Krishna Khaitan All India Tournament, IOC All India Ranking, the Sub-Junior Nationals and the All India Ranking in Pune. She also won the under-14 team gold medal at the 51st National School Games in India.
Pullela Gopichand coach of 
Gopichand was coached by S. M. Arif before Prakash Padukone accepted him at Prakash Padukone academy. He also trained under Ganguly Prasad at the SAI Bangalore. Gopichand won his first National Badminton Championship title in 1996, and went on to win the title five times in a row, until 2000. He won two gold and one silver at the Indian national games, 1998 held at Imphal. At the international level, he represented India in 3 Thomas Cup tournaments. In 1996 he won a gold in the SAARC badminton tournament at Vijayawada and defended the crown in the next games held at Colombo in 1997. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games, he won a silver in the team event and a bronze in men's singles. In 1999, he won the Toulouze open championship in France and the Scottish open championship in Scotland. He also emerged winner at the Asian satellite tournament held at Hyderabad in the same year, and lost in the final match of the German grand prix championship.

In 2001, he won the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham. He defeated then world number one Peter Gade in the semi-finals before defeating Chen Hong of China to lift the trophy. He became the second Indian to achieve the feat after Prakash Padukone, who won in 1980.
How PV Sindhu stunned Nozomi 
Okuhara with a badminton blitzkrieg to enter the finals of Rio Olympic 2016by Aug 19, 2016

Bearer of a billion Indian hopes for a second medal at the Rio Olympics 2016, shuttler Pusarla Venkata Sindhu produced one of the finest and most passionate performances of her career, to pummel Japan's Nozomi Okuhara into submission in the women's singles semi-final on Thursday.

The brilliant 51-minute victory by a 21-19, 21-10 scoreline over the reigning All-England champion made the 21-year-old Sindhu the first player from India to earn the right to contest an Olympic badminton final, and firmly eclipsed the bronze medal winning display by compatriot Saina Nehwal at the 2012 London Games.

After jousting on even terms with Okuhara for about one-and-a-half games, the gloves were off for Sindhu at 10-all in the second game. She unleashed a barrage of attacking strokes and grabbed 11 straight points in a seven-minute blitzkrieg that left her diminutive rival stunned, shocked and disoriented. Okuhara's plans of taking the match the full distance lay in tatters.

On Friday evening, Sindhu will spar with Spanish two-time world champion Carolina Marin for the coveted gold medal. Marin looked in commanding form as she dislodged defending champion Li Xuerui of China from the Olympic throne, with a dominating 21-14, 21-16 triumph.

PV Sindhu reacts following her win over Japan's Nozomi Okuhara.

The left-handed Spaniard was in command for virtually the entire match with an impressive display of speed, power and sparkling stroke play, and even made up a 11-15 deficit in the second stanza with a string of six points. She did have an unwarranted stroke of luck at 17-16, when her 25-year-old opponent landed awkwardly on her left knee while playing a twisting airborne overhead shot, and went over on her back with a suspected ligament tear.

Following a prolonged medical time-out, in which Li got her knee strapped and insisted on continuing - much to the displeasure of her coach, former world champion, Chen Jin - the Chinese girl simply limped around the court without much hope of getting into a rally, and let Marin go through the formality of taking the remaining three points for victory.

But by staying on the court till the bitter end, Li was giving herself a chance of returning for the bronze medal play-off on Friday; had she retired before the completion of her match against Marin, her name would have been scratched off the event. Even so, her chances of taking the court against Okuhara on Friday appear remote with that damaged left knee.

Sindhu entered the court on Thursday with the full knowledge that she could not afford to get into a prolonged, no-holds-barred battle with one of the fittest and steadiest defensive players on the badminton circuit, one who possessed exemplary speed and footwork.

While winning the 2015 season-ending Super Series final in Dubai last December, Okuhara had beaten the best in the world, including Saina Nehwal and Carolina Maran. She followed it up with the prestigious All-England title in March this year. And she had won both by engaging her opponents in the most excruciatingly long and energy-sapping rallies she could conjure up.

Ergo, Sindhu came up with a gameplan completely different from the one she had used against China's 2011 world champion Wang Yihan in the quarter-final. Instead of consistently playing lengthy rallies, as she did against Yihan, the Indian gave the 21-year-old Okuhara no rhythm at all, punctuating short, sharp rallies with some long ones where the players covered every corner of the court in their attempt to catch the opponent out of position.

Okuhara did depart from her normal procedure by playing aggressively in the initial reaches of the opening game, but some resolute defending allowed Sindhu to move out into an initial 7-4 lead, which she enlarged to 11-6 at the breather. The lanky Indian used her height (where she had a nine-inch advantage over the 5' 1” Okuhara) and reach to attack her opponent's backhand and finish off the returns with steep smashes to untenanted areas.

After the interval, the pint-sized Japanese began to claw her way back, and reduced the margin to 10-12, and then to 13-15 and 15-17. Sindhu's familiar end-of-game nerves duly kicked in, and Okuhara came within striking distance at 17-18, and then 19-20. But the Hyderabadi lass kept her composure, and made sure that she had the first game in her satchel.

After an initial 3-0 breakout in the second stanza, Sindhu was reeled back by some robust retrieving by the Japanese girl, and thereafter, barely a point separated the two antagonists until the midway mark. The rallies were very even and absorbing, but one could tell that the Indian was tiring.

Sindhu held a wafer-thin advantage at 11-10 when the players went into the lemon break. The lead could have been a bit more substantial, had the Indian not missed two absolute sitters from mid-court, in her haste to finish the points by the short route. No doubt the errors occurred as a result of mistiming the kills since she was on to the shuttle a micro-second late.

The general expectation at that juncture of the match was that Okuhara would step up a gear and make Sindhu play longer rallies, and exploit the fact that the Indian looked more than a little winded at that stage. But to the utter consternation of the sizeable Japanese contingent in the crowd, quite the reverse took place.

As coach Pullela Gopichand later observed, "That breather at 11-10 in the second game marked a watershed moment in the match. I was sure that one of the two players would crack under the immense pressure at that point, and I was hoping it wouldn't be Sindhu. When she got a couple of quick points upon resumption, she simply piled on the pressure, and it was the Japanese girl who could not keep pace."

Having got her second wind during the interval, Sindhu suddenly upped the ante, and played two points at blinding pace. Okuhara was completely thrown by the tactic, and became just a little tentative and prone to errors. Sitting on a 13-10 lead, Sindhu went for broke, the adrenaline pumping furiously in her system, and the accurate, aggressive strokes flowing with great vigour and elan. There was even a whiplash backhand smash as she rushed the net behind an overhead half-smash.

As point after point got added to Sindhu's kitty, her opponent's resolve broke completely. As the Hyderabadi powered to 18-10, her supporters hoped against hope her end of game nerves wouldn't manifest in a typical clutch of unforced errors.

But Sindhu would have none of it today. Confidence continued to drip off each of her closing strokes, including a late deceptive drop at the net with a turn of the wrist that caught Okuhara back-pedalling in anticipation of a push to the body. And when, at match-point, the Indian followed up a fierce hit into her rival's body with a thunderous follow-up smash that brooked no response, she had taken the final 11 points of the match in an unbroken reel.

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu has just claimed a quartet of notable scalps in Michelle Li, Tai Tsu-ying, Wang Yihan and Nozomi Okuhara. Now only Carolina Marin stands between her and the ultimate prize at these Olympics.

The untold tale of P Gopichand, PV Sindhu’s self-taught guru
Aug 17, 2016

One day, ten months ago, Pullela Gopichand read out the riot act to PV Sindhu. He told her that unless she screams standing in the middle of the badminton court at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton academy in Hyderabad, with 50-odd shuttlers and coaches looking on, he would not let her touch the racquet.

"It was very tough for her because she is a soft person and not very aggressive,'' said PV Ramana, Sindhu's father, who was present when the incident happened. Ramana, who was a member of the bronze-winning Indian volleyball team at the 1986 Asian Games, understood the reason behind Gopi's insistence.


File image of Pullela Gopichand.

"Gopi says Indian children grow up in a very protected environment because of which they do not express themselves enough, even when they are in a sports arena. Showing a temperament by screaming a bit and an aggressive body language also helps to intimidate the opponent. In sport, where domination is key, this aspect is important,'' Ramana said.

Sindhu was driven to tears, but at the end of what seemed to her like an ordeal, she did scream, standing alone in the middle of the court.

Off court, Gopichand is perhaps the most genteel person you will meet. It is his mind that is tough as steel. 'Grit' could well be his middle name.

"When I started out as a coach, there were many who dissuaded me saying the system will not let you succeed. But I feel it is important to keep pushing. I saw ourselves as world beaters and I wanted to prove the sceptics wrong,'' Gopichand told me a year ago.

Resting on his laurels as a former All-England champion would have been the easier option for Gopi, but the desire to be part of world badminton, a space he calls "an exciting place to be in", propelled him into the role of a coach.

A self-taught guru, Gopichand is considered one of the most tactically astute minds in the game today. One who made Indian shuttlers, hitherto tourists on the badminton circuit, believe that the Great Wall of China, the badminton powerhouse, could be breached.

Sindhu's victory in the women's singles quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics on Tuesday, over Wang Yihan, the world number two and the silver medallist at the London Olympics, is the result of that "You can do it'' mantra. Never-easy-to-please Gopi was in fact, happy with the 21-year-old's work ethic against a better-ranked opponent.

"It was a spirited performance. Both players fought like hell but Sindhu stayed calmer under pressure. It is good to see her perform like this at this stage,'' said Gopi, after Sindhu's quarter-final triumph. He believes that in the form she is in now, she is good to go for gold.

PV Sindhu won straight games with scorelines of 22-20, 21-19

It also helps Sindhu's cause that she is not running into either Spain's Carolina Marin or China's Li Xuerui in the semi-finals. Sindhu will fancy her chances against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, the world number six - even though with a 3-1 win-loss record against Sindhu, she has the edge on paper. The Indian's sole win came in 2012, while Okuhara has got the better of Sindhu in 2014, 2015 and February 2016.

Gopi and Sindhu beat the sun six days of the week. Both reach the academy by four am for an intense session that lasts three hours or more. The jugalbandi focuses on strategies to surprise opponents and works out chinks in Sindhu's armour. Gopi divides the court into different parts and works on Sindhu's wristwork, to get that backhand flip from the far left corner of the court to the right. Or the lunge at the net to execute that perfect heart-stopping drop shot.

Getting a ringside view into a world-class badminton coach training a world-class badminton player is like attending a science class. It is watching an astute mind unravel a difficult game and plot to gain complete control over the bird, its flight, its speed and its landing, by applying just the right pressure of the hand and the racquet.

Those lessons are being put into practice at Rio. To Sindhu's credit, she did not let the occasion, the stage and the fact that it was her debut at the Olympics get to her. Her reputation as a giant killer preceded her and she showed that those earlier two victories over Wang Yihan were not a flash in the pan. It was an extremely tight game but Sindhu switched gears to smash her way to victory at just the right moment.

"It is not finished yet. There is still a lot of work to do,'' said Sindhu after the match.

That could well have been Gopichand speaking. When I asked him what does every medal won by his wards mean to him, he replied "more responsibility''. "It tells me there is a lot of work yet to be done. When someone wins a medal, I tell myself we need to better it next time,'' said Gopi.

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a dejected Gopichand, after losing in the pre-quarters, told fellow shuttler Aparna Popat, "I do not know if I shall be able to compete in the next Olympics but I would like to coach someone and bring home an Olympic medal through them.''

Gopi realised that dream through Saina Nehwal's bronze at the London Olympics. Knowing his thirst to do better, India can be sure that Gopi would be working towards a Golden dream at Rio, courtesy Sindhu.

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