National Treasure - P V Sindhu

The first Indian to win the World Championship gold in badminton, P V Sindhu has come a long way since she first started playing badminton, at the age of eight and a half years old. Her passion for badminton, hard work and commitment has not only made the country proud of her achievements but has also made her a world champion! Additionally, this shuttler’s stellar sportsmanship and charm has helped her make it to the Forbes’ list of the Highest-Paid Female Athletes in 2018 and 2019.

During one of the most outstanding performances of her career the 24-year-old recently scripted history by winning a gold medal at the BWF Championships by beating her arch-rival Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in 38 minutes, proving that she is a go-getter and ready to take the world by storm! Read on as this gold medalist reveals snippets about her life’s journey and shares with us her current training regimen, diet, the importance of fitness, what she is looking for in a potential suitor and a lot more!

Everyone is comparing your current win to your previous win in 2017. So, what's the difference? Did you have too much pressure, as everyone has pressure before winning the championship? How was it different from any other match?

Well, it's a bit different competitively because I'm the first Indian woman to get five medals in the championships, and in this tournament itself. Two Bronze, two Silver and one Gold. And, I must say it's a much-awaited win for me! Every time I come to the finals, people tell me that I will lose in the finals or I have a final phobia. In 2018, I played eight tournaments out of which, I won six and then lost the finals. So, finally, I came to the World Championship Finals everybody started asking me what is happening? What will happen? Are you stressed out? Play it cool and be calm. To which I said, "I'm fine, and shifted my focus to only playing the game. This is how I overcame this."

What's your magic mantra to winning a final, now that you know it?

I would say I have to believe in myself, that is the magic mantra I believe in all the time. Nobody can tell you anything when you are on-court at that moment; you have to listen only to yourself. For me, I know I have to believe in myself and give 100 per cent. Of course, there are responsibilities and pressure is always there, but for me, it's more important to be focused and prepared for yourself when you are on the court.

So many kids will be writing their final exams soon, what's your tip? Is this like a final exam?

Yes, of course, this is similar to a final exam, and I've also overcome that pressure. A lot of people are rooting for me and think that Sindhu should win. But, when you think about them, you take on additional stress, rather than that it's best you go on to the court and play for yourself and give your 100 per cent. So, if you win, it's good for you and everyone too. You have to, either way, write the exam or play the game -"Winning and losing is secondary. When you step into the court, you have to play your game. If you keep thinking you have to win - that's just unnecessary pressure for you to carry throughout your game."

How do you deal with your competitors, who is your competitor first? Also, out of all your competitors who would you like to go out with for a cup of coffee?

In the women's circuit, whether we are talking about the top 150 players or the top twenty players, all are of the same calibre. So you cannot expect an easy game when you are competing with a 15th-rank-player or a 20th-rank-player because you never know what's going to happen - there are always ups and downs. Sometimes, even if you are leading in the match, you might end up losing the game. Also, at times, you might be training and you might end up losing the game. It all depends on the time of the match and who give it their best during the game.
I would love to go out for coffee with Carolina Marvin, who's an Olympic gold medalist and with Nozomi Okuhara, the player I recently won a match against. They are my good friends, offcourt but oncourt we are rivals.

How do you deal with competition?

I take competition very positively because it is much-needed when you play a sport. Moreover, aggression and rivalry are essential to bring out the best in a sportsperson. Therefore, competition should be taken positively; it definitely helps me a great deal on the court.

Your parents were volleyball players. So what made you choose badminton? Was Deepika Padukone your inspiration?

I was certainly inspired by my dad when I was young. I started playing badminton when I was eight and a half years old and at that point in time, when I was playing the sport, I never thought I would take it up as my career or go on to win an Olympic silver medal as I initially started playing the game to see how things pan out. But when I was ten, I joined the Gopichand Badminton Academy and started winning matches.
However, it was only in 2012 that I realised I could do well in this sport as I had won a game against an Olympic gold medalist. This event proved to be the start of my journey in badminton and ever since there has been no looking back. Also, since then, I believe in setting minimal goals and sticking by them - taking one step at a time rather than set big goals. I also think it is vital to keep mentally and physically fit to be able to plan my next move.

How do you deal with negativity?

There’s no denying that I too experience negativity. For instance, when I play a match and lose, I think nothing is going my way and everything is going wrong. But then I tend to lose more matches, leading to more negativity. So to break this vicious circle and to come out stronger, I fight pessimism and always look on the bright side of things!

As you are now getting ready for the Olympics what's your preparation like? Will you be changing your fitness routine and diet or is it going to remain the same?

The Olympics qualification is on till next May. So in between, there are about 10-11 tournaments and every match is crucial, as the ultimate goal is Tokyo 2020. So I'm taking it one step at a time. Moreover, I will be leaving in a couple of weeks for China and South Korea, so hopefully I do well there.
I am definitely going to make a few changes to my current diet and fitness regimen. I also need to work harder because now that I’m a world champion, every move of mine will be watched very closely. So I will need to change a few things and also add a few other things. My training is critical, as fitness is vital. I train for seven-eight hours a day - I play in the morning, go for training and again in the evening I play badminton. My diet comprises of brown rice as well as white rice along with protein. As I train continuously, protein is very important. I eat chicken or mutton every day but, when I put- on weight, I eat grilled chicken. According to my dad, I get back in shape after I eat grilled chicken for two days. However, my diet is based on a specific nutrition guide that tracks my daily food intake. As my mom is a fantastic cook, I sometimes cannot resist digging into my favourite dishes of kheema and fish curry.
One of the most important aspects of training is how well your fitness trainer understands what is required for your body type and how well your body conditions itself. Some aggressive regimens may not be suitable for a certain body type. Therefore, to tone your body effectively, your trainer and you should be aware of your fitness needs and limits. I train daily with my trainer at Suchitra Academy which is an hour's drive from home.

What is your routine when you are not playing badminton?

When I'm not playing, I rest at home and spend time with my family. However, most of the time, I'm travelling for tournaments, so in a month I'm out for fifteen days. When I come back from a tournament I go back to training and prepare for the next tournament.

Is it expensive to follow a diet and routine?

Yes, it is expensive but we need to do this for ourselves - for our future and in my case, for my immediate tournaments. I'm not saying one should train for seven-eight hours a day, but working out for at least one hour is a must.

As training for young badminton aspirants is quite expensive do private companies or the government help in any way?

The government does help athletes who are at the top, but for young kids an initiative called Khelo India Youth Games, formerly known as Khelo India School Games has been started. This event is held annually in January or February. It is at the national level and there are two categories for students: under seventeen. This initiative helps in terms of funding young aspirants. Moreover, sponsors such as Olympic Gold Quest, Indian Oil and other oil companies have helped players immensely.

Many kids give up their education to pursue a career in sports. But can this career sustain you for life? Do sponsors help you to set your career for the future as well?

Currently, Olympic Gold Quest is doing an excellent job in helping and encouraging young kids from the age of ten, until they start playing their sport. These sponsors are extremely helpful as these kids cannot cope with the expenses linked to pursuing any sport as a career. They have been supporting me since I was fourteen years old and have been doing an outstanding job, not just for badminton, but for other sports as well. I was earlier working before for BPCL Oil Company and they offer us jobs for a lifetime, as a sports career is very limited. However, it would be good to see more companies coming forward to help.

How do you work out while travelling?

My trainer travels along with me because sometimes I am not sure which exercises will be good for me. Moreover, with competition around the corner it’s best not to risk it. Also, if we are not too aware of the kind of exercises we should be doing, there may be the danger of getting leg aches and other body pains.
So when I'm not practising and doing shoots, I give my body time to recover because once you train extra, it's important for you to come back to your normal body condition as sometimes there is the possibility of injury when you train too much and then there will be no choice but to take off for two months to recover.

Quick Fire Round

Who is your BFF?

My sister, who is elder to me by seven years, is my best friend forever. Though sometimes, I may not get time to go out, we enjoy going out for lunches and dinners. I can do anything for her!

Does the casting couch exist in sports and have you ever experienced it? What is your message to those who have dealt with a situation like this?

Though I’ve never been subjected to it, a lot of people do face certain difficulties in various sports. I suggest they should speak up and address the issue because people should know what's happening.

If a woman athlete reaches out to you to help her overcome a tough situation would you speak up for her?

Yes, I would definitely support her and speak up for her as we need to come together and help each other. I think it is important to address such issues, be if for a woman or man.

Are you single? What are the qualities you look for in a potential suitor?

Yes, I'm single. I don't have time as I train for seven-eight hours. Moreover, I am also constantly travelling and don't even have time for myself. However, I have really good friends in the badminton fraternity, so whenever we travel together during tournaments we get some time to spend together and to know each other. But I'm still single.
My potential suitor should be fit and handsome, with a good, kind heart. I wouldn't mind someone who looks like Ranveer Singh. But if I was to speak about my choices only from Hyderabad, I would like someone like Mahesh Babu and of course Ram Charan.

What are your future plans? Is it in films and media, politics, opening an academy or a coach?

Since 'I'm playing badminton right now, I don't have any plans of opening an academy, but may be in the future I will. Also, I've just finished my MBA, so I don't think I’ll join politics. Acting too is ruled out but I do have my biopic on the cards and I would like Deepika Padukone to play my role, as she is a badminton player and is familiar with the game. So let's see how it goes.
I'm looking forward to the film and I hope it inspires a lot of youngsters because our youth should know what it is like to choose sports as a career and to be a sportsperson. I think it's very important for an aspirant to know where the journey starts, how it evolves, the sacrifices that are made and the hard work that goes into it all.

Your favourite restaurant in Hyderabad and in the world?

I love Italian food and Hyderabadi biryani. There is no one favourite restaurant in the world because I have so many!

Your favourite holiday destination?

I would love to visit Greece and Italy as I've never been there.

Last movie you've watched and all time favourite actor?

I don’t recollect any movie in particular, but my all time favourite actor is Ranveer Singh.

Do you play any other sports?

No, but I like cricket and I watch a lot of tennis.

Your favourite music track?

I like fast beats. So whenever I go for a match, I listen to something fast. It can be in any language: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and any other language is fine by me.

Are you a beach or a mountain person?

I'm a beach person and like the beach a lot!

People you follow on social media?

  1. Priyanka Chopra
  2. Ranveer Singh
  3. Selena Gomez
  4. Justin Bieber