We Indians love comparisons, don’t we? And PV Sindhu’s silver medal at the Rio Olympics on Friday has got us drooling over the prospect of lining up her achievement against that of her senior, Saina Nehwal.
It’s not easy being a public figure in a country like India. It is worse for a sports star. Every action is scrutinised, every triumph celebrated with gusto and a loss mourned with personal attacks on social media so vicious that they would break down the person. Not everyone can be Saina.
The London Olympics bronze medallist is currently the fifth best player in the world. The weight of expectations on her shoulders to go up a step or two up on the podium in Rio was unsaid. The 26-year-old herself was trying not to let it affect her preparations.
Making a comeback from injury is tough. But months of physiotherapy and determination saw her triumph in Australia just before the Rio Games. No one could have predicted a freak knee injury during training. But she still went ahead and played despite barely being able to move on court and lost in the group stage after winning the first match.
On Thursday, when Sindhu created history to become the first Indian shuttler to reach an Olympic badminton final, Saina was getting treatment for her injury. Years of hard work and success, toil and tears mean nothing to armchair critics. Social media immediately started praising Sindhu, and asked Saina to ‘pack her bags’. But, why should we make comparisons and admonish? That too someone who has been a pioneer in the sport.
Sindhu is 21 years old. Her impressive resume has two successive World Championship bronze medals and another from the CWG and now the Rio silver. Saina, on the other hand, has been nothing short of a trailblazer. The first Indian woman to be ranked No 1 in the world, first to win an Olympic medal, silver from the World Championships, gold from CWG, bronzes from Asian Games and Uber Cups – the list can go on and on.
They both trained in the same academy till Saina shifted to Bangalore two years ago. But just because they were in the same academy didn’t mean they trained together. They both had different teams, training schedules and practice partners.
And, as players, they are poles apart too. Sindhu is more instinctive on court; Saina works extra hard for muscle memory to retain a new move. Sindhu’s height is her advantage while Saina’s flick of the wrist stuns players.
Saina and Sindhu have both helped the sport immensely. And instead of comparing the two and start the ‘greatness’ debate (which, by the way, has erupted on social media) it would be best if both their achievements are celebrated. After all, both women have done something their male counterparts are yet to achieve – win Olympic medals.