Ace shuttler and Olympic silver medalist, P V Sindhu has demonstrated a spectacular success story. No wonder then that she became Bridgestone India's first brand ambassador and the first member in its team of Olympians. In this interview, she speaks to Sumantra B Barooah about the growing environment for sports in India, mantras for aspiring sportspersons, and her personal goals.
You have made your mark in the international arena as well. Tell me, from such an association, apart from the obvious benefits, what role does it play in terms of kind of promoting the sportsperson, what are the key areas where you feel that this support is absolutely crucial?
Yeah, I think talking about this support, I feel it should start from the grass root level, from the schools, where people rather think that, ‘I want to join my daughter or son in an academy and where Sindhu or Saina or any big players are playing’ and they would think that they want their children also to become like that. It is not so easy to become that way, but definitely support should be there from the parents and they have to actually start from the grass root level, where they actually come from the basics rather than just joining their sons/daughter…
Once they reach a certain age?
Yeah, because you know everybody has this thing that if they have champions coming from this academy then we should also join our children. You need to do a lot of hard work because as a player and coming from that level, I can now see that it is not so easy to come up in life rather than just thinking that. I am an Olympic medallist, so I know I am very happy today because I actually have come through lots of sacrifices and hard work.
And there could be many other Sindhus.
Yeah definitely. You never know, there might be many players who in the next few years would actually do well and be better than me. So, at the starting stage, the parents’ support is most important and after that the children would definitely show that interest in each sport, not just in badminton. Secondly, there should be many more academies in every city; like now we have the Gopichand Academy and many other similar academies.
So, in different states there should be different academies; the infrastructure is very important and there should be proficient coaches. It is not very obvious or important that we have to join in that academy itself. If you start playing yourself from your state and do well, then definitely you will be selected in a camp and you will be anyway there.
You get that platform to showcase your talent?
You will get that platform to showcase your talent in the tournaments and definitely if you work hard, you can come up from any level and you could come up from any state, being in Maharashtra, being in Mumbai, Pune or you know anywhere in Kerala or anywhere.
The environment for sports has improved in the country, but have we reached a stage where one can really think at the school level, ‘Yes, I want to pursue this particular sport as a profession’? Are we there or is there more that still needs to be done?
It was not there that much before, but now it has actually improved a lot. Especially, talking about my sport (badminton), after Olympics it has changed. There are many players who have actually joined or are coming into badminton. It is actually starting from the grass root level and there have been many events and these events might improve or increase or inspire players who could do much better.
And as you said, there are players from each city like from Assam, there are some junior players who are doing really well. It’s just not that they are not getting medals, but they are doing really well and they are still youngsters.
Maybe people are saying that there is a long gap after Saina and Sindhu, but in the coming years you will definitely see many more youngsters who are all doing really well.
What is the message you would like to give to parents who would like to rear their sons/ daughters as sportspersons, but right now they do not want their children to pursue sports because it may not guarantee that financial or social security?
Well, one thing is that parents should believe in their children and should support them in the sport that they want to (play). Initially, it was like, "My son should become doctor or engineer," but now, people have been taking sports and they have been taken seriously because they have been looking up to some of the stars who are doing really well for the country. When they take me as an inspiration for many youngsters, people actually think that my child can also do that. So the main thing is that they need to have a belief in their children and they need to have a dream that they could achieve it. I know, at some point of time they might feel that whether it is studies or badminton or nothing else, but that is where you need to actually believe that your child can do it.
You are a role model to many. Who is your role model or models?
I think for me, Gopi sir, because I have been seeing him since he was playing. Also my dad because my dad has been a volleyball player, he has been an Arjuna awardee, the way he has coped in his life. At that point of time, there might have not been so much of support and now we are getting so many facilities with so much of infrastructure.
We have been having so many supporters, like for me, Bridgestone has been very supportive and has been very much encouraging, not only for me, but for many of the youngsters. I have also been supported by OGQ (Olympic Gold Quest), who look up to the stars for the youngsters and believe that they could do much better for the country. So, these supporters would actually help us to motivate ourselves and do well.
Now as you progress in your career, have you thought of what you would like to do for the sport, not only in badminton, generally for the sporting culture in the country (after retirement). Do you have any plans? Or is it too early?
Well, for now, for me, there are many more dreams which have to come up and definitely it’s just the starting for me and there is more way to go on. There are many tournaments which are coming up and I want to see myself as no.1 and that is the main motto for me, to do well and be no.1 in the world.
And change your Olympic medal’s colour! Is it possible to address this issue of ensuring visibility to sporting talents in areas that may not be clearly in the radar of the concerned bodies? What should be done for them?
That is why our PMji has put that ‘Khelo India’, which actually gets the youngsters from different places and looks out for them and I know that there might be some players who are outside, who actually do not have anything, can’t look up to anything because there might be places which are far and some of the cities might not be in the radar. It’s just that they have to do well and if they actually have to look up to that then there are many sacrifices; like they coming here and practicing.
In that sense, they should also have a dream. It’s not just that they come here and everything is done. They need to have a dream , they need to set their goals. Even an individual, even a youngster or a 15 year-old child should have a dream that ‘I want to do that’ and if you have that dream, you will actually work hard for that dream to come true.