Pusarla Venkata Sindhu took a giant step forward to becoming a world champion in badminton, the first Indian to win gold in the prestigious competition. Her achievements in the sport have been considerable already in the Olympics (silver) and Super Series events, but the world championship had remained a bridge too far until Sindhu played an uninhibited attacking brand of badminton that overwhelmed her Japanese opponent Nozomi Okuhara. The attitudinal change to total aggression on court was the clincher, for too often Indian athletes had been put down for their lack of what is commonly called the “killer instinct”. Sindhu herself lost twice in the final in the past two years. It’s in crossing the thin line between victory and defeat that Sindhu has blazed a trail that is bound to act as an inspirational booster shot for all Indian sportspersons, particularly women.
Sportspersons are often divided between saying that winning and losing is “part of the game” and the more emphatic “winning is everything” line the more aggressive ones use. India’s badminton champs, men and women, have been reaping a rich haul of medals since the days of Prakash Padukone. Sindhu might have taken that further by taking charge of the world final and bringing alive her “be bold, brilliant, brave” advice to women as a product-endorsing celebrity.
India’s first individual Olympic gold came only in 2008 when Abhinav Bindra won it in 10-metre rifle shooting. Since then, the rewards to performance ratio has rapidly improved for our sportspersons, so too training conditions, expertise in coaching and support staff, travel and access to the best infrastructure. The time to deliver had come a decade ago: Sindhu has just joined the list of elite world-beaters in another breakthrough moment for Indian sport.