The agony of failing to make the Olympics final, which PV Sindhu was expected to reach after all the titles she had won in the lead-up to Tokyo, was somewhat soothed on Sunday after she won bronze and became only the second Indian after wrestler Sushil Kumar — and the first woman — to earn two Olympic medals.
Sindhu achieved that coveted glory — that too in successive Olympic Games, like Sushil — when she dismissed her Chinese opponent He Bingjiao 21-13, 21-15 in the bronze medal match.
Often dismissed as one not having the nerve to clear the final hurdle, 26-year-old Sindhu still has been a pioneer in many respects, bringing laurels to the country.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games she became the first-ever Indian woman to win a silver medal at the Olympic Games, a feat that was matched only by Mirabai Chanu on the first day of the Tokyo Games last month.
Sindhu is also the first Indian to win the Badminton World Championships and also the first to win Badminton World Tour Finals. And she is the reigning world champion as well.
Her achievements, as well as the absence of injured Carolina Marin who beat her in the 2016 Rio Games final and earlier this year in Swiss Open final, had raised hopes of gold or at least another silver medal.
But running into world No. 1 Tai Tzu-Ying, her nemesis, in the semi-finals was the worst thing that could befall Sindhu as she lost the match in straight games and was forced to fight for the bronze.
Daughter of former volleyball players, PV Ramana and Vijaya, Sindhu gets her competitive streak from her parents. Under coach Pullela Gopichand and now Park Tae Sang, Sindhu has gone from strength to strength in her game.
The tall player, known for her power game as well as smashes, moved out of Gopichand Academy this year and trained at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad to prepare for the Olympics.
She had first burst into international limelight in the 2013 World Championships at Copenhagen where she bagged a bronze. She followed it up with another bronze in Guangzhou World Championships in 2014 and a bronze in 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Although she lost in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Championships, the big moment came a year later when she, as ninth seed, beat Tai-Tzu in the Round of 16, second seed Wang Yihan in quarter-finals and Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals. But she lost to Carolina in the 83-minute final.
She then clinched the women’s singles title at the 2019 World Championships in Basel, an achievement that cemented her place in the pantheon of Indian sporting legends even, though she had already confirmed it after winning the Olympic silver.
The year 2021 has been devoid of titles. She lost to Carolina 12-21, 5-21 in the Swiss Open final and then was beaten by Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand in the semi-finals of the All England Open in straight games, 17-21, 9-21.
And even though she failed to win gold or even make it to the Olympic Games final, the fact that she won an Olympic bronze will only boost her legendary status.