Battles of all types bank on the invincibility of their forces. But ‘ invincibility’ doesn’t always stand the test of unbeatable might, à la the naval battle of 1588 between Spain and England, where the invincible Spanish Armada was defeated! I n the recent battle of the rackets, India’s PV Sindhu has won the World Badminton Championships gold by thrashing her higher-ranked rival Nozomi Okuhara of Japan 21-7 21-7 in one of the most lopsided finals ever in Basel, Switzerland on August 25. Sindhu indisputably has proved her invincibility in Basel by mauling Okuhara, her most familiar opponent. Having played 16 matches against each other since 2012, Sindhu now leads the head-to-head 9-7.
Sindhu is the first Indian to become a world champion in badminton. The historic gold in Basel is her 5th World Championships medal. She had won bronze in 2013 and 2014, silver in 2017 and 2018 at the World Championships, and now the coveted gold medal. Accolades strung with selected adjectives ‘incredible, sensational, fantastic, master-class, et al’ continue to pour in for Sindhu. Twitter has been abuzz with Sindhu's dominant display. Top personalities from all walks of life congratulated Sindhu on her remarkable victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi after meeting Sindhu tweeted, "India’s pride, a champion who has brought home a Gold and lots of glory!" Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju congratulated Sindhu on "bringing glory to India" while Badminton Association of India president Himanta Biswa Sarma was "thrilled with joy”. India’s football team captain Sunil Chhetri was in absolute awe of Sindhu's performance. Former badminton player Jwala Gutta hoped that Sindhu's victory can change the country's attitude towards sports. She tweeted: “Hope this medal changes the attitude towards sports in our country and the deserving sportspersons get all the support to achieve this kind of a feat! Thank you @Pvsindhu1 for this! You only proved that with the right kind of support we can conquer the world.”
As World Champion, Sindhu has become an icon of Indian sports, a role model worthy of emulation. Hence it is important that we don’t stop with eulogies but take a close look at the ingredients of Sindhu’s invincibility. Her historic gold medal wasn’t offered to her as a gift of fortune on a platter. She earned it the hard way. If so what are the building blocks that empowered Sindhu to smash Okuhara into submission?
An unshakable self-confidence : Sindhu knew who she is and what she is capable of. Being aware of her self-worth she refused to be cowed down by criticism. In fact her amazing feat in Basel, as she says, came as a fitting reply to her critics who blamed her for coming short in the summit clashes of major events ever since the 2016 Rio Olympics where she had finished second to Carolina Martin of Spain.
An unapologetic ambition to win over the world : Believing in the dictum ‘the best is yet to be’ Sindhu worked hard to achieve nothing less than the best. Aiming at the dizzy height atop the world she was up for the challenge and with a strong will to win, she thrashed out her rival with a vengeance within 38 minutes. Sindhu dreamed big and never gave up in the face of setbacks.
Patience in failure : Sindhu is fearless of failure; instead she used it as a stepping stone to climb higher. Despite tough battles, unkindly critics, elusive gold medal and an agonizing wait, Sindhu didn’t give up. Although in 2017 she was piped by Okuhara in a 110-minute marathon in Glasgow and in the following year she lost to Carolina Marin in Nanjing, in Basel 2019 Sindhu was determined to clinch the elusive gold, which she did in style.
Refusal to be weighed down by others’ expectations: Unfettered by others’ expectations Sindhu follows her own inner voice: "Everybody wanted this win from me. After Rio Olympics silver medal, the expectations from me is really high. Every time I go to a tournament, everyone expects me to win a gold. After a year I also thought what should I do for it and instead of thinking about others, I thought maybe I should just play for myself and give my 100 per cent and automatically I win because thinking about others would put extra pressure on me."
Sindhu’s historic win has left many a compelling takeaway for the rest of us Indians. In the first place this great success-story has demonstrated the ‘invincible girl power’. It has sent out a wakeup call to schools, parents-society and the government to encourage sports and establish support-systems to Indian athletes. Sindhu has put a golden aura around Indian badminton.
No Indian who loves his/her country can look away from the picture of 24-year-old Sindhu, the star Indian shuttler from Hyderabad, standing flushed with emotions on the podium with an elusive and much-awaited gold medal around her neck. "I could not hold back my tears when I saw the Indian flag and heard the National anthem playing. Words can't express my feelings about yesterday's win at the World Championship," went Sindhu’s Instagram post. Sindhu has made her country proud. And we are proud of her as an invincible daughter of India. Her historic win calls the people of India to cherish every girl child and uphold sports in Indian society.
Sports benefit all. They play a crucial role in the holistic development of young people by integrating body, mind and spirit. They enhance learning capacities like concentration, comprehension and memory in students. Sports helps to build self-confidence, facilitate social interactions, teaches social skills like teamwork, leadership qualities, discipline, and improves brain power and mental health. They help overcome depression and create self-esteem. Sports inculcate positive and neighbourly values. Mental benefits apart, sports enhance physical health in reducing extra weight and chronic illnesses.
The importance of sports in the life of girl-child has to do much more than winning gold medals. It’s all about coming out of shyness and timidity and becoming a self-confident and bold personality. Participation in sports helps girls to accept the physical, mental and social challenges of life. Girls who are good at sports have painless menstruation with less cramping and discomfort. They tend to become good leaders, better organizers and socially adjusted people. The old dictum, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is an ever relevant explanation of the vital necessity of encouraging and organizing sports in schools and wider society in India.
Not all schools and parents in India encourage sports for their children. A highly academic education system in India that daily ties up students for six hours in the monotonous atmosphere of classrooms providing no room for out of box thinking invites various types of mental health problems. In today’s dreary backdrops of stress and depression, childhood-obesity, learning problems and students’ suicides, it’s high time that all stakeholders in Indian education system wake up to the imperative necessity of giving a serious chance to sports.
(Published on 02nd September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 36)