Silver Sindhu refuses to rest on her laurels as the BWF World Championships shows

PV Sindhu might have lost the women's singles final match at the BWF World Championships but still deserves to be the toast of the nation.

PV Sindhu reacts as she plays against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara during the finals of the 2017 BWF World Championships. Photo credit: Andy Buchanan / AFP

They say that you don’t win a silver medal but lose a gold medal. On Sunday night, after a gallant effort to win gold in the BWF World Championships in Glasgow, India’s PV Sindhu proved that you could win silver as well. Just two players in the world were good enough to play the final. Japan’s Nazomi Okuhara nosed ahead when it mattered but Sindhu could be proud of her silver.

The biggest takeaway is the hunger that Sindhu showed on the big stage. Unlike some contemporaries in other sport who have been unable to overcome distractions that come along with success and fame, she has stayed focused on delivering consistent performances in the year after winning Olympic silver, especially on the grand platform.

Clearly, Sindhu does not believe in resting on her oars. And that will serve as motivation for not only those chasing sporting success but also for those wanting to achieve more in life. She is still 22 and it may be too early to compare her hunger with that of Indian legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Abhinav Bindra, Leander Paes, V Anand, Pankaj Advani or Gagan Narang.

She started 2017 with a title win in the Syed Modi International Challenge and had a fine run to India Open gold when she beat compatriot Saina Nehwal, Korean Sung Ji Jyun and Spanish Olympic champion Carolina Marin. That was the early indication of the fact that Sindhu had averted the danger of satisfaction acting as the handbrake to her career aspirations.

But there was also some disappointment with quarterfinals losses in the All-England Open, Singapore Open, Asia Championships and Australian Open, not to speak of earlier exits from Malaysia Open and Indonesia Open.

With Saina Nehwal winning the Malaysian Masters Grand Prix Gold tournament, the focus through the first half of the year was on Indian men like Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth. Sindhu did appear to be flying under the radar, learning from each of her defeats as she readied herself to make an impression in the biggest tournament of the year.

A facile win against Korean Kim Hyo Min in the second round was followed by hard-fought victories over Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi and China’s fifth-seeded Sun Yu. The apparent ease with which she beat back ninth-seeded Chinese Chen Yufei’s challenge in the semifinals was a treat to watch.

But nothing, not even Nozomi Okuhara’s victory over Saina Nehwal, prepared us for the spectacle that unfolded in the final. The two 22-year-old players were like gladiators, trading blow for blow, their strength and endurance on show. They were running, gliding and flinging themselves to unfurl a wide range of strokes in defensive and aggressive modes. It was a veritable treat for fans.

As the Japanese star overturned a match point and won final three points in-a-row to emerge world champion, forcing all of India to sigh in disappointment, Sindhu was graceful in defeat and generous in her praise of Nazomi Okhuhara’s skills and stomach for battle. The respect for her opponent is among the hallmarks of a champion.

There was evidence of the fact that work will resume sooner than later. For, coach P Gopichand said there are lessons to be learnt from the final. Calling Sindhu a work in progress, he said she wasn’t sharp enough, got predictable and needed more weapons. “Gritty was not good enough tonight,” he said, revealing that the quest for excellence is an endless and consuming journey.

Sport – like life – offers its exponents the chance to either wring their hands in despair or find ways to get better, add new layers of tricks to their game. On the basis of what we have seen since her Olympic silver, you can be sure that Sindhu will set off in search of those extra weapons that can fetch her gold in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Yes, Sindhu will make for fascinating watching over the next three years. It is such a relentless pursuit of perfection that will spark hundreds of journeys across the country. Yes, her World Championship silver medal will combine with her Olympic Games silver to inspire a generation of youngsters to take up sport.

And the manner in which she has conducted herself and the zest to show that she had not let anything – awards, rewards, honours and fame – come in the way of her desire to be the best player she can possibly be. Not having lost gold but having won silver on Sunday night, Sindhu is deservedly the toast of the nation.

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