PV Sindhu, Shuttler, Olympic Silver Medallist
Post her silver win at the Rio Olympics 2016, shuttler PV Sindhu, is now a household name, and badminton’s ‘it’ girl of the moment. A chat with her on the side wings of the felicitation ceremony by Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) reveals the grounded 21-year-old behind the aggressive self we were witness to on court.
“I am very happy. My parents have sacrificed a lot for me and had they not been with me, I would not have achieved success. Also, OGQ has been giving me all the support I need since the age of 15. And I have a gem of a coach (Pullela Gopichand), who is always motivating me to work harder. The infrastructure in the Gopichand Academy (in Hyderabad) too has been phenomenal,” says Sindhu.
We bring up the topic of the on-court aggression she displayed throughout her Olympic run. “My coach was very clear about my being aggressive on court. I personally also believe you need to wear your aggression on your sleeve to give out the message of being in control.”
Talking about the finals, Sindhu says, “I was really disappointed after I lost the game but I took it in my stride and pulled myself together. I made two-three mistakes, and Carolina Marin (her opponent in the finals) took the lead, and the shuttles were a bit fast. Had I won those points, things could have been different.” However, she is quick to add that every match is different, and comes with its own challenges and lessons. She takes each match as her first one and plays her best game to win.
The Rio win behind her, Sindhu is now gearing up for other competitions including the Denmark Open Super Series Premier followed by the French Open Super Series, a week later. There is also the Dubai World Super Series final (from Dec 14-18).
“I never thought that I would clinch the silver medal in the Rio Olympics, but I did. Now, I want to play better in all the matches to come and live upto the expectations,” the shuttler concludes.
–By Manasi Tahalani
Sakshi Malik, Wrestler, Olympic Bronze Medallist
For an Indian wrestler who has an Olympic bronze to her credit, Haryana girl Sakshi Malik, is immensely humble and is all smiles throughout our interaction.
The wrestling bug bit her, says Sakshi when her grandfather Badhlu Ram, a famous wrestler himself, would recount his stories of the sport to her. “His stories about his wrestling days is what motivated me into getting into the sport,” she says. She knew little about Olympics; her only aim was to win every competition. However, as she began climbing pedestals, she realised just how big a platform the Olympics were. “My coaches and seniors told me that an Olympic medal is the highest honour for any sportsperson. That was it. I doubled my hard work and singlemindedly worked towards it,” Sakshi says.
Being in an essentially male-dominated sport such as wrestling has not come easy, but Sakshi believes that the best way to break stereotypes is to lead by example.
“I never cared for what people said. I worshipped wrestling and concentrated on my training. My family supported me and that is all that mattered,” she says. Growing up, there were times when her mother would be influenced by the locals, but when she saw the dedication Sakshi would put in, she began supporting her with full force. “When you have the support of your family, you are unstoppable.”
While her family has been her biggest pillar of strength, her coaches, trainers, physiyos, JSW sports played an important role in motivating her towards success. “Women should believe in themselves and train themselves to achieve their goals, only then will other women be inspired as well,” she adds.
“I have seen people change like the snap of a finger. The same people who would once taunt me now want to take pictures with me and show they are proud of my accomplishments,” she reminisces with a laugh. When she started out, her akhada only had about five or six girls. However, the numbers since then have been on the rise, and was seen after a sharp rise since her recent win. “Seeing us win, parents have been motivated to send their sons as well as daughters to train for wrestling, badminton, among other sports,” she exclaims.
The Government has been supportive of her, but she wished that it is supportive of all sportspersons. “I do hope all wrestlers get the right diet, training facilities, etc. like those from other countries do. Also, that our problems are addressed in time,” concludes Sakshi.
–By Anisha Suvarna
Dipa Kamakar, Gymnast, Fourth place at the Rio Olympics 2016
Agartala may very well be called Karmakar city now. All thanks to gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s remarkable feat at the recently-concluded Rio Olympics. The once relatively anonymous girl can barely get around town now without being stopped by for an autograph. “It is both humbling and exciting at the same time,” says Dipa, with a broad smile, when we sit her down for a quick chat. Agartala has always been known to produce some of the most promising gymnasts from India, and post Dipa’s feat, more and more young girls are taking it up, which Dipa says is very encouraging. At the time, when we caught up with her, she was mostly soaking in the glory, indulging in her favourite foods, and resting it out post her gruelling schedule before the Rio Games.
So, what was the feeling of almost winning a medal for the country like? “Initially, I was happy that from finishing eighth in the qualifiers, I had emerged fourth. I knew I had done a good job with the Produnova and Tshukara, but when the feeling of missing the medal by a whisker sank in, I secretly wished I had put in a little more effort.” That coming from someone who features in the list of very few female gymnasts who can successfully land the extremely difficult Produnova. The Produnova involves running full tilt towards the springboard, a jump followed by blocking the hands, swinging the legs into full rotation while in flight for twin somersaults and then a frontal landing with complete balance. If it goes wrong, it can break the spine and the neck.
Dipa owes her success almost entirely to her coach Bisheshwar Nandi. “Without the kind of training he put me through the last 16 years, this would have never been possible. We have had to cross many a hurdles together, to get to where we have right now. I want to inspire the next generation so that in the next 10 to 15 years, India can send a full gymnastics team to an Olympics and not just one athlete,” concludes the petite Dipa, in her native language, Bengali.
–By Riddhima Seal