It was my first Olympics live from the stadium. And what an experience it had been! It still gives goosebumps to think that I was one of those fortunate ones who got to see PV Sindhu on the Olympics podium from the stands.
Flashback: August 3, 2016
It was the day I had to make the decision of which events I would be attending at Rio Olympics 2016. On one hand, I wanted to witness some mind blowing games from the finals of some events while on the other, there was this burning desire of watching an Indian at the biggest stage. And so, along with a few other events, I decided to go for the women’s badminton singles semifinals. Yes, I was skeptical about any shuttler making it to the finals. I only thought that Saina Nehwal, our best hope in the sport, has a chance to replicate her performances from London 2012.
Well, little did I know that I will get the unforgettable chance of attending the finals to cheer for an Indian in the event. Even more so, never ever I actually pictured PV Sindhu do the unthinkable and fight for the ultimate glory. I owe you an apology, girl, for not having faith in your abilities, much like a hoard of our countrymen and I promise to follow and support you through thick and thin, from now till the end of time.
It is now time to revisit the final of the event, a scintillating game that ended a couple of days ago, but is still fresh in my memory.
PV Sindhu was up against a fierce opponent, World number 1 Carolina Marin. She had 19 individual titles under her belt before the Olympics finals. In 2014, she won the World Championships, defeating Chinese Li Xuerui, the opponent she defeated once again in the semifinals of Rio 2016. In 2015, Marin got the better of Saina Nehwal in the World Championships Finals and won the tournament for a consecutive second time. She always showed her determination and ability to make a comeback, even if she is on a back foot.
After watching the semifinals between Xuerui and Marin, truth be told, I was in awe. The Spaniard, with a plethora of experience and a large quiver of shots, was always a tough nut to crack. Not only she keeps her opponents busy, but she also plays mental games throughout the match. And it was evident that Indian sensation PV Sindhu would have to pull off a miracle to snatch the gold.
The gallery was filled up with Indians. All clad in tri-colour, people screamed at the top of their voices. Sindhu could not start too well and was behind, but soon, possibly with the encouragements of the spectators, came back strong and won the first game. It was hard to explain the feeling, as “jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega” reverberated for a long time around the pavilion.
Unfortunately, it had little effect on the Spaniard. Carolina was fierce in the second game, and gave little to no chance to PV Sindhu. She clearly showed why she holds the number one position in the rankings. The Spanish supporters were beside themselves with joy as she smashed another one to claim the game point. But, what struck me most was that she never celebrated after winning the second game. She knew that the job was half done, and quickly started preparing for her gold.
It was possibly one of the best games of the tournament. Both Carolina Marin and PV Sindhu brought their best out and kept on fighting for the glory. Much to the dismay of the Indian supporters, the 21 year old was up against someone who knew her business. As the game progressed, Marin kept on moving closer and closer to victory and soon, it was all over! Her resilience, vision and the mental strength made all the difference. India’s golden girl, PV Sindhu, had to be happy to be the first woman to win the silver medal from her country.
And of course, she won a billion hearts, if not more, along the way!
Before the match, I imagined, plenty of times, how it would feel to sing the national anthem during the Olympics victory ceremony. After watching the second game, I realized that it was not going to happen. And somehow, I have no regret. I know that PV Sindhu lost to a superior opponent. The way Carolina greeted Sindhu after the match revealed how much trouble the Indian gave to her. And the Indian supporters in the gallery and beyond knew right away that the country has got a new hero.
PV Sindhu, you are our new sensation, someone who showed that sheer courage and determination can take someone a long way. I hope that you will go to Tokyo 2020 as one of the title contenders, and I know that no matter what, you will fight for that coveted honour, you will want to bite the gold, you will cherish to sing the national anthem standing on the podium. Good luck for the future, girl.