India’s badminton superstar PV Sindhu is carrying the hopes of her country’s 1.3bn people, but meditation is helping her stay calm in the eye of the storm.
The 26-year-old world champion, who won silver at the 2016 Rio Games, would become only the second Indian ever to win an individual Olympic gold if she triumphs this week in Tokyo.
With Rio champion Carolina Marin of Spain absent with a serious knee injury, Sindhu has as good a chance as any in an open field. She booked her place in the quarter-finals with a 21-15, 21-13 win over Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt yesterday, then revealed her secret for shutting out external noise.
“I meditate at times, so I think that keeps my mind calm and keeps me going,” she said. “We see a lot of things happening on social media everywhere. Sometimes to let go of everything I just meditate for a bit.”
Sindhu needed just 41 minutes to dispatch number 13 seed Blichfeldt and book her place in the last eight. “I’m not thinking about playing in the final,” said Sindhu. “The important thing is what is tomorrow. I’m just focusing on that. Yes, I got a medal at the last Olympics, but this is a fresh start.”
Meanwhile, celebrated men’s doubles world leaders Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia lost in the quarter-finals to a Malaysian pair in about half an hour for the week’s second major upset in badminton competition. Gideon and Sukamuljo — known fondly at home as the “Minions” because of their diminutive stature — lost 21-14 21-17 to world number nine pairing Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik.
The match comes on the heels of one of the biggest upsets in badminton history on Wednesday, when men’s singles world number one Kento Momota’s Olympic dreams were crushed by number 38 Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea in the group stage.
Denmark’s men’s singles world number two Viktor Axelsen smashed his way to a 21-16 21-14 victory over Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei in the last 16. Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, the women’s singles world number three, made quick work of Canada’s Michelle Li in a tidy 21-9 21-7 match in the round of sixteen. Okuhara now faces China’s He Bing Jiao.
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