Told myself, ‘no more bronze medals’: Sindhu on Rio Olympic silver
PV Sindhu’s cellphone was taken away three months earlier, and in Rio care was taken not to mention ‘Olympics’, to keep pressure at bay. Coach Pullela Gopichand or support staff shadowed the 21-year-old to help her stay calm.
Still, Sindhu realised there was a word of salvation for India at such Games which she could not keep out of her head --- bronze.
“I was telling myself that this time ‘I’m not going to get bronze. I already have back-to-back bronze medals,” the Rio silver medallist said at the ‘Off The Cuff’ TV show by Shekhar Gupta on Monday.
A week of rapturous welcome was highlighted by the function in the morning to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna from president Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. And then it was about negotiating traffic jams caused by heavy rain to reach the venue of the show. The trip navigating almost standstill traffic to catch the flight to Hyderabad, to put her feet up, would come later.
If there was tiredness, both Sindhu and Gopichand didn’t show it as they calmly explained what went into making India’s first woman Olympic silver medallist.
Gopichand gave fresh insight into the aggressiveness that was built into a polite girl; how she repeatedly broke down when he demanded, in front of her academy mates, that she yell with all her might. That was the former All England winner’s tactic to help her shed reticence.
“I kept telling her, ‘I want your fist up, punch in the air, finish the rally, see through the rally; finish the match, see through to the end.
It was ‘believing is doing’ at its best. Gopichand’s lessons in self-belief meant Sindhu kept telling herself “I’m rock solid, nobody can defeat me.” He said: “If things are working, you reiterate in the middle of the match that ‘we don’t believe that we are losing’.”
Then came Gopichand’s gestures on the sidelines. “For me, whatever body language, when she was seeing, was for Sindhu. What I did with her back to me was for me.”
Was her coach a tyrant? Sindhu had absolutely no complaints with the man who began guiding her as an eight-year-old certain that the daughter of tall volleyball players, PV Ramana and P Vijaya, would also get tall.
“Being tall is an advantage as far as reach etc. is concerned, but it can also be a problem in bending,” Sindhu explained. She was also in guru mode as children got the chance to seek her advice.
Gopichand recalled some of the tough moments he faced due to a lack of support system and finance and said he made sure his academy had everything for the players. “In the 1990s, when I went to All England, my mother had to mortgage her jewels. I didn’t have the money to stay in the team hotel.”
But it wasn’t world class infrastructure alone that produced champions. “What you need are quality coaches with passion.” The system should work, and nothing should depend on individuals, he said.
But some individuals don’t leave anything to chance. “For two-and-a-half months we practised the backhand crosscourt net shot. In the end, she used it twice, but won two crucial points. It just worked.”
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