Seventeen years after he reached his peak as an athlete by winning the bronze medal with the Indian volleyball team at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, PV Ramana realized his daughter was a tad special.
PV Sindhu, arguably the greatest Indian badminton player in history, was only eight when her ability to endure pain in search of athletic brilliance stunned Ramana.
“She would do 20 rounds of the 400 metres track at the Railways sports facilities,” Ramana told this reporter, as Sindhu was greeting every fan with a warm smile during the draw ceremony for the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship in Dubai.
A vital cog in India’s greatest-ever volleyball team, Ramana married P Vijaya who was also a national level volleyball player.
But none of their daughters showed an interest in volleyball.
PV Divya, Sindhu’s elder sister, was an accomplished netball player before she left the sport to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.
“We never forced them to do anything. There was nothing like they had to play volleyball. It (badminton) was Sindhu’s own interest. When I was playing my volleyball, next to that court was a badminton court. I used to take her there and she showed an interest in badminton,” said Ramana who was a sports officer at the Indian Railways.
“The Railways players were very kind, they spared time for her, and they played with her. That’s how she started playing badminton.”
Hard work and resilience
Sindhu has already earned a place in the pantheon of India’s greatest sporting icons.
But there was a time when critics raised serious question marks over Sindhu’s temperament following her defeats in several major finals.
Sindhu responded to all those criticism by winning the 2019 World Championship in Basel before adding the 2020 Olympics bronze to her 2016 Rio Games silver in the trophy cabinet.
Ramana says his daughter has always been motivated to push the limits.
“One thing I have found in her is even when she was small, she would always complete the task. If the coach asked her to do 10 or 15 rounds of the track (before training on the court), she would always complete that. She needed no one to push her right from the days when he was only eight,” Ramana said.
Sindhu’s work ethic has remained the same despite earning a place alongside tennis superstars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka on the Forbes’ list of 10 highest-paid female athletes in the world.
“All these great athletes, they are all incredibly motivated. You know players like Viktor Axelsen (Denmark’s two-time world badminton champion and 2020 Olympic gold medallist), they have that ability, commitment, desire and dedication. These players, they keep performing at the highest level for eight to 10 years,” he said.
“Sindhu also has the same hunger to keep improving. She has already won the world championship, the World Tour Finals, and two Olympic medals. But she wants to keep working very hard to win more,” Ramana said of Sindhu who will be aiming for the gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
It remains to be seen if Sindhu, 27, goes on to make history in Paris, but Ramana says he can never ask for more from his daughter.
“I am just so happy with what she has achieved for the county. I am very proud to say that I am an Arjuna awardee in volleyball, my daughter is an Arjuna awardee in badminton, under one roof. It’s a great joy,” he smiled.
“To be honest, I didn’t dream of her winning a world championship when she was younger. I knew that she would be a good, dominant player at the national level. I was confident that she would be a national champion.
“But she became a world champion and won two Olympic medals. I think it’s all because of her hard work, dedication and blessings from God!”
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