Rio de Janeiro: Shuttler P.V. Sindhu’s silver in the women’s singles competition of the Rio Olympics lifted India’s spirits as the nation erupted in joy at the 21-year-old’s historic feat on Friday.
World No.10 Sindhu settled for the white medal after being beaten 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 by World No.1 Carolina Marin of Spain. The silver took India’s medal tally to two after wrestler Sakshi Malik settled for the bronze in the 58 kilogram Freestyle category on Wednesday.
On Friday evening, the nation came to a standstill with people glued to television sets as Sindhu took on Marin at the Riocentro – Pavilion 4 in the hard-fought summit clash, which lasted one hour and 20 minutes.
The Hyderabadi started on a positive note but after 3-3, the Spaniard dominated the proceedings and took four consecutive points to lead 7-3 and then 9-5.
Unperturbed by the pressure of the occasion and her towering opponent, Sindhu controlled her nerves and displayed swift court movements and hit bodyline smashes to diminish the lead to 13-15.
Sindhu, who was trailing 16-19 at one point, fought her heart out and took five points on the trot to claim the first game in 27 minutes.
Carolina, who can annoy any player with her shuttle retrieving techniques, looked like a spectator as it was Sindhu who reversed the roles to clinch the first game 21-19.
In the second game, Carolina, dubbed the “Girl Nadal in Spain” after male tennis star Rafael Nadal, attacked from the start. The Indian couldn’t manage to control the torrent of attacks and trailed 2-11 at the mid-game break.
After the break, Sindhu tried to bounce back and displayed a lot of power and strength to dismantle the strategy of the Spanish opponent but failed and relinquished the second game 12-21.
In the decider, Carolina got off to a flying start as she took a five-point lead in the initial stage at 6-1.
But Sindhu, who was on a giant-killing spree after dismissing two higher-ranked opponents in competition, displayed grit to pull level at 10-10. Carolina went into the mid-game interval leading by a slender one point margin.
After the breather, the duo continued to fight for each point valiantly but it was the more experienced Carolina who proved superior. Sindhu though kept herself within a touching distance of Carolina at 14-16.
But Sindhu was left powerless when Carolina upped the ante to pull ahead 19-14. She edged closer to match point with a half smash and eventually clinched the contest 21-15.
Irrespective of the colour of the medal, Sindhu emerged the apple of the eye for every Indian citizen as President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi took to social networking website Twitter to congratulate the shuttler.
“Great game played with grit; Hearty congrats #PVSindhu on creating history by winning for India Olympic Silver medal,” Mukherjee tweeted.
In his congratulatory message, PM Modi said: “Congrats for the Silver @Pvsindhu1. Very well fought. Your accomplishment at #Rio2016 is historic & will be remembered for years.”
Calling the silver medal feat as “the most precious jewel in the crown of Mother India”, Sonia said: “Her silver medal is the most precious jewel in the crown of Mother India today and she has set examples for generation to come.”
Immediately after her historic feat, Badminton Association of India (BAI) President Dr. Akhilesh Das Gupta announced a cash award of Rs 50 lakh for Sindhu and Rs. 10 lakh for her coach Pullela Gopichand.
Apart from Sindhu, the other Indians in action — wrestler Sandeep Tomar and Racewalker Sandeep Kumar — had a disappointing outing in their respective disciplines.
Tomar was beaten by Victor Lebedev of Russia 3-7 in the men’s Freestyle 57 kilogram 1/8 final round while Kumar clocked four hours, seven minutes and fifty five seconds to finish 35th in men’s 50km Race Walk event.