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Paris Olympics will be challenging, need to be smarter, says Sindhu

Set to return after an injury-induced break, two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu is aware the road to Paris will be “challenging” and she needs to be “smarter” in her pursuit of a coveted gold medal in the French capital.

Former world champion Sindhu has been enduring a lean patch. She has suffered injury setbacks and a dip in form in the last 18 months.

She suffered a stress fracture on her left ankle during the successful 2022 CWG campaign and later sustained another injury on her left knee during the French Open in October last year, forcing her out for three months.

“I would say, this Olympics is going to be a different experience because the 2016 and 2020 Olympics were very different. Paris will be more challenging but at the same time, I have much more experience and I will have to be much smarter this time,” Sindhu told  PTI in an interaction.

The 28-year-old from Hyderabad was in Mumbai on Thursday at Great Place To Work’s FOR ALL summit.

“In women’s circuit, players in the top 10-15 are tough. It is important to be focused and have a strategy so that you can switch to plan B if plan A doesn’t work. It is important to stay calm as sometimes you can go blank. It is important to have a strong mindset,” she said.

Desperate to find her mojo back after a series of low results, Sindhu parted ways with Korean coach Park Tae-sang early last year.

She trained with Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Vidhi Chaudhary and then Malaysia’s former All-England champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim in July but success continued to elude her.

Then former All England Champion Prakash Padukone reached out to her and soon she shifted her base to Bangalore. She is currently training under Indonesia’s Agus Santoso at Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA), which operates out of the Padukone–Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence.

“I have a new trainer, physio, nutritionist, coach, and mentor, so everything is very new, and I am happy how they have been supporting me and are helping me from where I am and where I should be in the next couple of months,” said Sindhu, who will return to action at the Badminton Asia Team championships in Malaysia from February 13 to 18.

“I am very fortunate to work with Prakash sir because he is such a legend and him being a mentor helps. His training methods and ideas are helping me. As for Agus, I knew him for a long time when he was training our men’s players.

“We will have to see how I do, it has been just a month. So things will be good moving forward. I am back to my full fitness and I am looking forward to Asia team championships.” Asked if the focus is on fine-tuning strokes and strategising against the top players, Sindhu said: “Definitely yes. After the injury, it is important to focus on physical, mental, and technique, where we focus on a lot of skills. We have been working on every aspect at the moment.

“I have not played tournaments in the last three months, so I will come to know where I am after I start playing tournaments. It has been pretty good so far.

“We have been talking and discussing against all the top 10-15 players in the women’s circuit. I think right now Aya Ohori, An Se Young, (Akane) Yamaguchi, and Carolina (Marin) are doing well.

“So it is not just one or two players, we need to know how every player is playing and we have been discussing them but it is important to focus on our own skills and technical aspects and also physical aspect,” added the current world ranked 11.

Talking about the low phase of her career, Sindhu said: “In 2015, I had a stress fracture injury. I had pain and I played with pain for six months.” “I had just 6-7 months to come back and qualify for Rio Olympics. There were many doubts if I could do it or not. I trusted myself and went with the flow and got a silver in 2016.

“After 4 years, there was Tokyo, but due to Covid, it was postponed. There were expectations and I couldn’t go to the finals. I was upset and sad and my coach told me that there is a lot of difference between a bronze and fourth position and that completely changed my mind.

“I had mixed reactions after the semifinal loss. I had tears in my eyes and I didn’t know should I be happy or sad that I missed out of a final. The next day I was at the podium, winning the bronze, so it was harder.

“In 2016, the medal was confirmed after I reached finals but in Tokyo, I didn’t know if I would win one. It was a hard-earned medal.”

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