"16-20, 17-20, 18-20": How the Suchitra badminton academy recreated Olympic medal scenarios for PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday
PV Sindhu won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday

It is no secret that Suchitra Badminton Academy has played a major role in PV Sindhu winning the bronze medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The Hyderabad-based, state-of-the-art academy worked tirelessly behind the scenes to realize a common goal - an Olympic medal for PV Sindhu.

For any athlete, a podium finish in an Olympics cannot be achieved if the support system is not structured correctly. In Sindhu’s case, there are so many factors which helped her realize her dream of winning back-to-back medals in the Olympics.

The support of the Government, Sports Authority of India, Badminton Association of India and sports ministry was commendable. Similarly, the role of Suchitra Badminton Academy was equally important. They worked in tandem with the authorities and helped Sindhu in her bid for another Olympic glory.

Even though Suchitra Badminton Academy is a private institution, they combined well with the mainstream system in the interest of the nation. Head coach and owner of the Suchitra Badminton Academy, Pradeep Raju, was elated when Sindhu beat He Bingjiao of China 21-13, 21-15 to clinch the bronze medal on Sunday.

Here's what the head coach had to say in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda:

“As soon as Sindhu won the final point there were tears of happiness in my eyes. Words can’t express how happy we all were at the Suchitra Badminton Academy. Our efforts finally bore fruit and we managed to achieve our target."
"Although the gold medal was our target, winning a bronze was no mean achievement. Entire credit goes to Sindhu for the way she fought. Efforts by coach Park Tae Sang and the sacrifices of her parents also played a crucial role. We provided the back-up support she needed."

Former national-level badminton player Pradeep Raju revealed that it took a lot of effort to make Sindhu win a second Olympic medal.

“Sindhu has been associated with our academy for the last four and half years. She used to come here for extra practice and training. Her stroke corrections, gym training, nutrition and other aspects we have been taking care of for the last few years. Her physical fitness session was handled by our main trainer Srikanth Verma."
"In fact, we sent Srikanth to Tokyo to be with Sindhu. Our academy physio Evangeline Baddam was the official physio of the Indian contingent. For the last few months, around twenty boys of our academy performed the role of sparring partners for Sindhu while she was training at the Gachibowli Stadium under Park,” said Pradeep Raju.

Pradeep said Sindhu was given regular challenges during practice and created different match-like situations for her.

“Each day's program was different for her. We used to coordinate with Park and plan her different practice sessions well in advance. We would not reveal her daily schedule and used to keep it suspenseful. She had match simulations where she played from positions like 16-20, 17-20 and 18-20."
"If you see, this helped her against Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the quarter-final in the second game. Sindhu was down two game points (18-20) after winning the first game quite easily at 21-13. From that position she reeled off four successive points to clinch the match,” said Pradeep.

Pradeep said they ran video analysis of her game and all her possible opponents to ensure Sindhu understands and adapts easily to every style of play from her rivals.

Lockdown helped Sindhu develop new strokes: Pradeep Raju

He also said lockdown was a blessing in disguise for her as she could concentrate on her game without any disturbance.

“Despite pandemic throwing the tournament structure haywire, it worked in Sindhu’s favor because it gave her enough time to learn new strokes like slow drop and the half-smashes. She learnt so many new strokes during the last 4-5 months. Especially dribbles and cross court placements with extraordinary angles turned out to be her main weapons during the Olympics."
"We have given input to the strength and conditioning team, and she is now faster and leaner compared to last year,” said Pradeep, who is also the director of the academy.

Pradeep said Sindhu was at the peak of her game, which helped her perform to the best of her ability in Tokyo.

“Sindhu peaked at the right time for the quadrennial tournament. In the last few days before leaving for Tokyo, Sindhu was playing at her best. She had beaten two boys in the last few days prior to her departure whom she had never beaten in her life. That boosted the confidence of everyone associated with her."
"While leaving for Tokyo she told me that she is feeling very confident about her game and she is capable of beating anyone in the world. And she lived up to her words and brought us the medal,” said Pradeep.

He signed off by saying it has been a glorious journey with Sindhu and they are proud to be associated with the champion shuttler of India.

Also Read: How PV Sindhu's physio Evangeline Baddam helped her return from Olympic semi-final loss

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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