PV Sindhu took just 38 minutes to win the World Badminton Championship final and become the first Indian to reach that dizzy height. This giant leap for Indian badminton was as much about her ruthless triumph on D-Day as it was about the way she has repeatedly bounced back after confidence-shattering defeats. It was a result of waking up the morning after and resetting her targets, no matter how hurtful the loss was, that had seen Sindhu collect a bunch of medals — at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, now five at the World Championships and an Olympics silver.
Indian shuttlers have had little history of excellence at the world championships. Prakash Padukone had a bronze, Pullela Gopichand had none, Saina Nehwal had faltered in six quarterfinals before eventually medaling, and the men’s singles shuttlers couldn’t find the breakthrough till a minor toe-hold this year. Arguably the world’s most talented player, Tai Tzu-Ying, whom Sindhu beat in the quarters, has struggled to medal at the Worlds and even the legendary Lee Chong Wei had to retire with a big bunch of silvers, but no gold. Being crowned World Champion is no fortuitous happenstance, for even a bronze is hard-earned. To be the only constant in the podium pictures for three straight years is an achievement that guarantees an entry into badminton’s Hall of Fame.
It is no secret that India struggles for medals at Olympics, the frustration reaching tipping point three years back in Rio. But Sindhu was in a stratosphere of her own — revelling in ousting shuttlers with big reputations, including the mighty Chinese Wang Yihan, before losing a classic final. She never settled for it, and it was to be the start of an assault on every peak — India had never medaled in women’s singles at the Asian Games before her silver. No Indian, male or female, had made the World Championship finals. No Indian had won the year-ending circuit finale. A solitary global medal — not necessarily gold — makes grand news in India. But Sindhu’s is an unapologetic ambition to win over the world, and she will do everything within her prowess to keep winning.