PV Sindhu jumped when she smashed Nozomi Okuhara. Higher even. Gold or silver medal-high in fact. After beating Okuhara (21-19, 21-10), the 21-year-old Hyderabadi becomes the first Indian to gain an Olympics final spot in Badminton.
Sindhu is on the brink of battling for an Olympic gold; on the threshold to corner the glory that has eluded India for 13 whole days this Games, and for eight years since Abhinav Bindra.
The 21-year-old daughter of Vijaya and P V Ramana — both former volleyball players — has assured India a top-two podium. Her final clash is with Spaniard Carolina Marin, the world’s most dominant player over the last two years, though Sindhu has been in such rampaging form that Indians across the world can stop all that they are doing at 11 am Brazilian time on Friday.
Gopichand was in Sindhu’s ear every moment of Thursday’s match, feeding her game-plans, breaking down every small movement, reading the wind on which way Okuhara’s game was heading.
Sindhu always had the attacking game, the steep smashes and the firepower in her kill strokes. Now, she’s added a base of defence to it — tougher than for most others given how tall players struggle owing to their higher centre of gravity. This Olympics, she has hit a hitting zone where she’s made her opponents look as if they were playing at a lesser pace, and raised hopes that the top prize might not be too far off. “One match at a time,” she’s been saying.
“No pressure. It’s just a great moment for me playing the Olympics finals,” Sindhu said. She’s beaten opponents who have troubled her in the past, thrashed a few that have troubled the rest of the world, and on Thursday beat her own nervousness that has troubled most Indians within striking distance of a medal at Rio.