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Behind an Olympic medal – PV Sindhu's silver medal at 2016 Rio

Despite sending its largest-ever contingent in their Olympic history to Rio, the country returned with only two medals, one of which was from PV Sindhu in badminton.

Behind an Olympic medal – PV Sindhus silver medal at 2016 Rio

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 18 Jun 2021 5:53 AM GMT

The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now less than 50 days away. Even though the fate of the Games hangs in balance even now, athletes from across the globe are sweating it out in their respective sessions to be in the best shape possible ahead of the quadrennial event. As the Olympics near with each passing day, we bring to you a new series of articles, 'Behind an Olympic medal', wherein we will take you through the struggles that went behind Olympic medals won by India.

For the third article of this series, we take you through shuttler PV Sindhu's silver medal finish at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The 2016 Olympics was by no means a successful one for India. Despite sending its largest-ever contingent in their Olympic history to Rio, the country returned with only two medals, one of which was from PV Sindhu in badminton.

Entering Rio de Janeiro, not many considered the then 21-year-old PV Sindhu to be a medal contender. She was seeded ninth in women's singles before the start of the Olympics and was not even the best seeded Indian. The 2012 London Games bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was seeded fifth.

Even though Sindhu had stitched some brilliant performances leading up to the Olympics, the eyes of Indian sports fans were fixated on the more experienced Nehwal. She was the one who was expected to lead India to the glory, while Sindhu was just an understudy – someone who could use this Olympics as a learning curve and win a medal at the next edition.

But, things panned out largely different at Rio de Janeiro. Saina Nehwal faced a shock second-round exit against Ukraine's Marija Ulitina, and suddenly Sindhu was the only hope for millions of Indians.

Sindhu had by then won her first round against Hungary's Laura Sarosi 21-8, 21-9 rather easily. Taking to the court after Nehwal's exit, the young Sindhu won a hard-fought battle against Canada's Michelle Li 19-21, 21-15, 21-17 to make her way into the pre-quarterfinals.

Up against the very talented Tai Tzu-Ying of Chinese Taipei, the Indian cruised to 21-13, 21-15 win in less than 50 minutes to enter the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal draw was not an easy one for Sindhu. She was up against the then World Number 2 Wang Yihan of China.

This was not a match one expected Sindhu to win. But instead, she stunned the world with a brilliant display of attacking badminton to upset Yihan 22-20, 21-19 to send the Chinese crashing out of the Olympics.

By the time Sindhu reached the semifinals, she was already a star back home. Why not? She had just defeated one of the best shuttlers in the world and knocked her out from the biggest of tournaments.

Sindhu seemed to be playing on a different level altogether during the semifinals as she crushed the Japanese Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-10 in straight sets to all but ensure a podium finish at Rio de Janeiro.

The stage was set for Sindhu to become the first Indian woman to clinch an Olympic gold as she entered the final. Up against the Spaniard Carolina Marin, Sindhu gave it her all. In a match that lasted nearly 83 minutes, the Indian went down 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 to settle for the silver medal.

Since becoming the first-ever Indian woman to win a silver medal at Olympics, PV Sindhu has grown heaps and bounds and was even named the World Champion in the year 2019. Much more experienced now, the 26-year-old will enter the 2020 Tokyo Games as the sixth seed and is currently eyeing her second consecutive podium finish at the Olympics.

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