The Rio 2016 Olympics silver medallist will be carrying the hopes of the country as she bids to bring home a medal from Tokyo 2020, slated to get underway from July 23.
“There is a lot of expectations and responsibility this time. Back then (2016) I was one of the athletes but now expectations are a lot more. It is important to stay focused and just play your game and give your best. Obviously, you shouldn’t think about what others say because that would add extra pressure.
“I take it in a very positive way because am sure people want to show their love and support. They want that medal back in the country but I make sure to be focused all the time,” she told ANI.
Talking about the Olympics and preparation around it, Sindhu said: “I am really excited and looking forward. Yeah, it is just nine days away and we have waited a long time now. We will be leaving on Saturday. I am prepared and all set. It’s just I have to play my best and play the game there.”
The 2019 World Champion Sindhu will lock horns against Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi and Israel’s Ksenia Polikarpova in the league stage. Sharing her thoughts about the draw, she said, “I would like to take it step by step. One match at a time. Even though Carolina [Marin] is not there, it’s not going to be easy because you know there are almost seven to eight players when it comes to Tai Tzu Ying, Ratchanok, Chen Yu Fei, Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara, and different girls. So every match is important.
“In the group stage I will play against the Hong Kong girl [Cheung Ngan Yi] and she is not easy, I have played with her before and she plays well. So, am just thinking about one match at a time and the rest depends on that particular day.”
Sindhu under the guidance of her new coach, Park Tae-sang, will be hoping to clinch that elusive gold. Sindhu had been training under South Korean coach Kim Ji-Hyun, who was part of the Indian badminton coaching staff, since March 2019. It was also under the coach’s supervision that Sindhu became the World Champion that year. However, Hyun resigned shortly after that in September 2019 and Park Tae-sang was assigned the role to coach Sindhu and a few other female shuttlers on the Indian badminton circuit.
“I am really happy with Mr. Park and I am training with him for 1.5 years. It’s been really good, it took some time to get to know and communicate. I am sure his style and thinking might be different and every coach has a different mindset. So it’s good to know different skills and techniques from different coaches as it is really useful and you can use them whenever needed.
“It took me a month or so to understand and communicate and after that because of the pandemic and lockdown we have been in, I have used it in a very good way. As I have used my time to learn new techniques and skills. And yeah Park is very helpful, motivating, and supporting,” she pointed.
Winning the silver at Rio was life-changing for Sindhu as she said, “When I got that medal at Rio since then my life has changed a lot. Game-wise I have gained a lot of confidence. In these 5 years, I have won a couple of tournaments and gained a lot of experience. Olympics is No. 1 and I am sure everybody is eagerly waiting.
“Every time you win you rate yourself higher, so this is the way I keep myself motivated and make sure that I work each and every day. I want to see myself there at the podium.”
Following COVID-19 protocols has been a new normal around the world and in sporting events. Commenting on the same, she said: “Definitely, it would be different, We will miss the crowd compared to the last Olympics and be careful as we have to get a test every single day. So I am sure it’s altogether a different task and we have to accept it as a new normal. It is going to be there. I think it should be fine as we are getting used since last year. I have played in England, Thailand, Switzerland, and over there we have some COVID-19 protocols, so I have got used to it.”
The 26-year-old also threw some light on Tuesday’s interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of Tokyo Olympics. “It was really good talking to him, interacting with him. He encourages every athlete and makes sure everything is nice and comfortable. He really believes and trusts that we can get many medals for the country,” she said.