In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, Olympian medallist PV Sindhu talked about her preparation for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. She shared her experiences, her preparation and how it has changed amidst the Covid-19 outbreak.
Sindhu: At the moment I am enjoying the pressure because I can’t say that I don’t have pressure, because of a lot of expectation and responsibility I think it’s very important to just play your game and give your best rather than think what people want you to do because that will and extra pressure according to me and having that pressure and going to the court is not good. So I think it’s better to just focus on your game and give your best.
Q: True, your bags are all packed. So what are the few things that you are going to pack for yourself so that you do well in Tokyo?
Sindhu: Lots of sanitiser and face mask. It’s very important to stay safe and make sure that you follow all the Covid protocols because even though the Japanese government is doing everything and the protocols are being followed, it’s very important to stay safe. Weaving in the bio bubble and everybody will be tested every day and it’s going to be very different and I think so The Mask and sanitiser become very important. Apart from that, I am really looking forward.
Q: You are going to be the flag bearer. Is there a special honour? And that also increase the weight of expectation?
Sindhu: Well there are expectations but being the flag bearer, it’s definitely a proud moment and holding the flag and representing your country, it’s a proud movement for me. I am really happy about that and I am looking forward because not everybody gets that chance and me getting that chance and opportunity I think it’s really a great moment.
Q: How has this been different this time? Because of the pandemic, a lot of things have happened, few of your colleagues didn’t get qualified, the contingent only 4, it’s a very small contingent. But there are the Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. So how it’s been different this time?
Sindhu: Yes it’s very different, look at 2016 – it was different, and this time it’s going to be completely different, we won’t be having spectators around and we can’t go anywhere and we have to stay in the bio bubble. I think this pandemic has taught a lot of things and I am getting used to it. For some of the players, it’s getting difficult also. I think it’s not just for us but it’s for everybody out there. Unfortunately, the tournament is getting cancelled and getting postponed. It’s not in our hands. We are in such a situation where you don’t know what is next or what is going to happen. At this point, the only thing that we can do is to stay safe. If the performance is getting cancelled we can’t blame them also. Because you don’t know how the situation is in their own country. Everybody wants to make sure that safety comes first. We don’t want that situation to go in some other country and get infected from Covid there and staying there for a very long time. I think that’s not a good idea. I think they have decided about it and have cancelled the tournament. Since they haven’t got selected so we can’t blame them also. It’s going to be the first Olympics for Sai, Satvik and Chirag, and they are quite excited because everybody is theme is to be there at the Olympics and I think if anybody gets that chance they are going to enjoy it. So it’s going to be different. But, I think they will learn new stuff.
Q: I am amazed that you are still so young yet still so much older. You are going to be the senior.
Sindhu: For me, it’s my second Olympics so I know how the environment is going to be there and I know it’s a really good environment you see a lot of athletes on top of their games and it becomes an inspiration for you that yeah you are one of them. So, it is good and it’s something special. Olympic has always been special for me.
Q: Let’s talk about three things the mental level the physical level and the skills. Let’s talk each one by one. Mentally you seem to be in a much better place than you were earlier. Now have you been working on that aspect because last time we spoke about mental awareness? Is it something that you been focusing on?
Sindhu: I’ve been working on that. And I am making sure that I don’t go to that state because a lot of people don’t know what to do when they go to that state. Getting mentally upset, depressed not only in just sports life but also in personal life as well. So it’s very important to keep yourself busy by doing something else rather than thinking too much about what’s happening. It’s important to understand the fact that nobody can do anything about it. Obviously, take care of yourself and stay safe. Apart from that, it’s very important to keep yourself busy by doing something else and don’t think a lot about what happening, just a positive all the time. You can do that by doing some exercise or by learning some new skill, that is what I meant by keeping yourself busy you get so busy that you don’t have time to think. Keep yourself in that zone and no that you have to stay positive. I know at times is there in life or in sports where you lose a match and things are not going your way so you get upset and begin to get depressed you need to try and come out from that place. You just have to think about what is next and keep going because that’s how life is. Because I think positive and staying happy is very much needed. I am sure things will definitely change
Q: Now that you know that you are mentally strong, have you ever tried testing it out but how do you perform in a critical situation?
Sindhu: I have learnt a lot of things because it comes with a lot of experience to understand what’s going in your head, and I make sure that I keep myself calm. Back then when I used to play a match and if I tend to lose it, then I get upset and you can see that on my face. Now that has changed I keep working on that. It’s very important to work on your mental aspect. Overall I have improved and it’s really good and I stay positive all the time. There are times when you have so many thoughts in your mind or it’s just a bad day for you, it’s just fine it’s ok. It happens, it’s not going to be forever.
Q: You may be going through a lot of emotions something really opposite to what is being interpreted. But you have to be in control.
Sindhu: Yes, you have to be the one who has to control yourself.
Q: Now let’s talk about your physical aspect, in terms of becoming stronger. What are the aspects that you worked upon? In the run-up to a lot of games, now that it’s not happening but has that also help that you are now injury-free. Get stronger on your training aspect. What have you been doing?
Sindhu: I think this was the time I got enough time to work on my skills and to train because generally, we don’t have much time because we come from a tournament and then go back to another tournament back then we didn’t have enough time as we were so busy. Now we have a lot of time since March we don’t have any tournament still now. Injury wise endurance wise or skill-wise I’ve been working on every aspect of it. When you are competing at the Olympics you have to be in your best form. This was the right time, I’ve got enough time to train. Enough practice sessions to learn new skills. I’m very happy that we got enough time. A lot of people say that we miss tournaments that we couldn’t play and do match practice. When you play the matches in big stadiums, you get used to it. You get to use to the spectators. But this time around we are playing the matches without spectators at a big stadium. So I am getting used to it so that I don’t take much time after going there to actually know how it is.
Q: It’s going to be a test of endurance and skills, have you been working on that? Because this strength of all your up opponents are different. As nationality change the skills and strengths changes.
Sindhu: I’ve been working on my endurance when we talk about other players yes they are really strong. Skill-wise when things comes we have to be prepared for it. So I am working on skills and techniques and I am getting help in that too.
Q: Have you been watching what others are doing? Who are the players whom you are going to watch out for?
Sindhu: I don’t watch previous matches but we see that what they are currently doing and what they are preparing for. But from March until now we don’t have any tournaments so that everyone can learn new techniques and improve their games. But it’s very important to be prepared for everything and to have plan A and plan B. You go by one plan and if that doesn’t work so you can immediately change your plan that is very important.
Q: Who do you think is someone who has always tested your ability?
Sindhu: It’s very different for every player and we have to be prepared for everyone. Like Rachenoff is a very skilful player. For each player, it’s different and you have to be prepared for everyone you should have a different strategy for everyone in the same game.
Q: Is the virus going to play, is the pandemic is going on in the worry of catching the virus or are you going to set that aside and say I’m not going to bother about it?
Sindhu: Of course you have to be careful because we are travelling, make sure that we wear a mask. But I think we should not worry about that because they are protocol and things are being taken care of and we Being In a bio bubble we will make sure that we maintain that social distancing and when we get to the quote I think that should worry us. It’s important to be focused and just play our game. I think that’s what I’ll be more worried about.
Q: Do you think this time the bus around the Olympics is not that much. Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing?
Sindhu: I don’t have that feeling because I have already been hearing about that a lot so I feel that the buzz is there but since it got postponed and now that is finally happening I am very much excited about it because it’s just a couple of week. Apart from that what to be prepared for that there will be no spectators. Surely we are going to miss that buzz, that noise and that crowd. But personally, I think there will be a lot of supporters. Apart from that, I think the Olympics is there and the buzz is there.
Q: since there will be no spectators, do players actually feel the crowd energy, does that actually make a difference. In Japan, while playing against the Japanese players, you will rather have an empty Stadium than a crowded one.
Sindhu: now, we’ve got used to it. For Yamaha Gucci and ukuhara it’s their home ground but when it’s Olympics they will also be pressure on them also. I don’t know if they are going to be spectators or minimum spectators, at the end of the day it’s you and your coach only, I think you two should support each other, playing K9 in an empty stadium of course we miss the audience. When you hear the crowd that’s like motivation and support this cheer for you all the time. This time we’re not going to have that. So I don’t think the crowd matters.
Q: What does kopi Anna say? You been working closely with them. Is there any word of advice that come from him?
Sindhu: Not really because every morning we just come and train. And we have been training for almost one and half years now. So I am just training with him.
Q: What was his assessment of you one year ago, and what are the things that he said that Sindhu you need to work?
Sindhu: He said I need to be a bit consistent and focus on my game a little more and what he meant is that being consistent is very important. And I am working on that too.
Q: What is it that we should watch out for from Sindhu this time around?
Sindhu: I hope that people see a new skill from me and hoping to get that medal back to the country. I think that’s what you should hope from me.