PV Sindhu scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman to collect two medals at the Olympics after defeating China’s He Bingjiao 21-13, 21-15 in the bronze medal match on Sunday.
With this win, Sindhu becomes the second Indian after Sushil Kumar to win two individual Olympic medals. She had won a silver in the last Olympics in Rio after losing in the final to Carolina Marin. Sindhu had earlier lost to world no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the last four on Saturday.
Sindhu didn’t drop a single game at this year’s Olympics in the five matches that she won and her ten match wins at the Olympics are the most for an Indian badminton player. Saina Nehwal, who won bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 and the only other Indian badminton player to medal at the Olympics, is second with nine.
This is India’s third medal at this Olympics. Mirabai Chanu had earlier won a bronze in weightlifting, while Lovlina Borgohain is also assured of a medal in boxing after reaching the semifinals. India had won two medals at the previous Olympics in Rio. This is also the first time that three Indian women have medaled at a single edition of the Olympics.
Sindhu has now won a grand total of seven medals at the World Championships and Olympics, which is the joint-most for a woman’s singles player, tied with China’s Zhang Ning. Other than her two Olympic medals, Sindhu has one gold, two silvers and two bronzes at the Worlds.
“It makes me feel really happy because I’ve worked hard for so many years. I had a lot of emotions going through me – should I be happy that I won bronze or sad that I lost the opportunity to play in the final?,” the 26-year-old said after the match.
“But overall, I had to close off my emotions for this one match and give it my best, my all and think about the emotions. I’m really happy and I think I’ve done really well. It’s a proud moment getting a medal for my country.”
She’s also only the fourth women’s singles player to medal at successive Olympics after Susi Susanti (gold in 1992 and bronze in 1996), Bang Soo-Hyun (silver in 1992 and gold in 1996) and Zhang (gold in 2004 and 2008).
Sindhu had looked in tremendous form throughout the tournament and she started off confidently to open up a 4-0 lead in the opening game. She set the tone of the match early and the Chinese player was playing catch up throughout as Sindhu almost led from start to finish.
“It was a fresh game altogether, we both had losses yesterday and came back. For us, it was very important in getting a medal for the country and at the Olympics,” Sindhu said after the match.
“It’s not easy. It’s a big thing. There were really long rallies but I had to be patient and calm. Even though I was leading, I did not relax.”
Bingjiao drew level a couple of times in the opening game but her slow start seemed to have cost her. She was also coming off a marathon 79-minute semifinal against her compatriot and top seed Chen Yufei on Saturday and that match’s aftereffects seemed to be showing as Bingjiao was slower than usual in her movements, while Sindhu was at her optimum aggression from the beginning of the match.
Sindhu had also been the better player in the opening game of the semifinal against Tai before a couple of costly errors towards the end cost her. She then faded as the match went on but it seemed like the cap was on the other head in this match as Bingjiao was flummoxed by Sindhu’s pace of play and acute straight smashes.
The Chinese player is known for her control and touch play at the net but Sindhu did well to push her deep into the court and also targeted her backhand consistently.
Bingjiao tried to use the crosscourt drop shot frequently as is the case with most of Sindhu’s opponents but her drops lacked the dip and length that Tai so successfully managed to achieve in the semis. As a result, Sindhu had ample time to get to the drops and come up with deep lifts or clears that caught the Chinese player frequently out of position.
Sindhu capped the win fittingly with a trademark smash on her very first match point opportunity to close out a straightforward match.