The Proud Indian Fighter

The demands at the highest level of sport can be draining and, sometimes, crippling.

With huge expectations to roll on like a well-oiled machine at all times, athletes need coping mechanisms to navigate their way out of pressure-cooker situations in monumental matches.

India’s sporting darling and world champion Pusarla V. Sindhu, looking to make amends in Tokyo this year for her loss in the women’s singles final of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, has her way of dealing with such circumstances.

“I’ve been doing my meditation. It keeps me composed,” she revealed recently to the Olympic Channel.

The women’s singles ace is the only badminton star among a number of Olympic medallists featured on the site as part of a series called Olympic State of Mind, where athletes share their techniques of dealing with pressure when competing on the world’s biggest stages.

“You just have to be there focused all the time. That’s important,” she added.

Being emotionally aware is key to success when athletes are engaged in intense battles. A high level of mindfulness can help them prioritise the more important things than letting a niggling injury, for example, affect their focus.

“We need to be mentally and physically strong, it’s equally important,” Pusarla says.

“You need to believe in yourself and have hope you can do it, then just go with the flow.

“You shouldn’t get distracted; you just have to be focused all the time.”

A young Pusarla, now 24, lost a closely-fought gold medal match in Rio after 83 minutes of nail-biting action.

But she atoned for that disappointment by becoming India’s first world champion shuttler three years later in Basel by defeating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara with relative ease.

Pusarla will get another crack at winning the Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020, and the former Asian junior champion is now in a good place mentally to realise her dream, having developed fresh methods to step out onto the court in a relaxed state.

So, is listening to music one of them?

“Depends on my mood, I do listen to a fast beat,” she discloses.

Perhaps, a peppy tune and her new-found ‘Olympic State of Mind’ could be just what the world No.6 needs to get over the line in Japan.