India’s PV Sindhu on Thursday swept aside Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-19 21-10 in the women’s singles badminton semifinals at the Rio Olympics on Thursday, assuring the country of a second medal – at least a silver – after wrestler Sakshi Malik’s bronze.
With this, Sindhu has become the first Indian shuttler to enter an Olympic final.
In the 49-minute battle of 21-year-olds, Sindhu first wore down Okuhara before sealing her fate in the second game to get India its second Olympic badminton medal after Saina Nehwal’s bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. The world No 10 will take on Spaniard Carolina Marin – the world No 1 – in Friday’s final.
“My target is gold, promise to play my heart out,” Sindhu said in an interview to broadcaster Star Sports after the match.
The Hyderabad girl executed the strategy devised by her coach, former All-England champion P Gopichand, against Okuhara – the world No 6 – to perfection. She stayed ahead in the closely fought first game, using her reach to push the shorter Okuhara to the back court and then executing drop and cross-court shots to score points.
Sindhu proved unstoppable in the second game as she ran her opponent ragged. In the end, there was little fight left in Okuhara, and Sindhu – who held 10 match points – executed an easy smash to seal her victory.
If the Indian shuttler beats Marin in the final, it will get the country only its second individual Olympic gold after shooter Abhinav Bindra won the 10m air rifle in Beijing eight years ago.
The brilliant display of the two-time world bronze medallist, who upstaged Chinese world No 2 Wang Yihan in the quarterfinals, also signalled India’s coming of age in a sport that originated within its borders.
Sindhu’s mother, P Vijaya, was optimistic about her chances in the final. “We have been going to the temple every day, and we will do so even tomorrow. She will win by God’s grace,” she said.