As India’s shuttler PV Sindhu was getting ready to play Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics, back home in Hyderabad, the mood was one of nervous anticipation. Sindhu's family, friends and well-wishers had gathered at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton academy in Hyderabad’s Gachibowli.
The media that has camped outside the academy since Sindhu started her campaign at Rio captured every moment from the nervous but excited crowd.
When the match that was scheduled to begin at 7.30 pm got delayed, friends and family took turns to speak to the media.
The 21-year-old's parents P Vijaya and PV Ramana were, however, smiling and praying fervently. Seated with them was coach and mentor Gopichand’s mother Subbaravamma.
Gopi's wife Lakshmi, his mother and Sindhu's parents watching the match
As Sindhu clinched the first set against Okuhara, the whole hall erupted in applause. Sindhu’s parents P Vijaya and PV Ramana could be seen smiling and praying fervently.
The match finished in flat 49 minutes with Sindhu winning the second set comfortably. As the shuttler, jumped for joy in Rio, back at her training academy, her friends and loved ones whistled and clapped, as celebrations broke out.
Gopichand’s mother Subbaravamma hugged Sindhu’s parents and shouted with excitement as her son’s protégé was assured of at least a silver medal.
“This is Gopi and Sindhu’s victory. Hip hip hurray,” PV Ramana told the media.
As Sindhu’s parents and Gopi’s mother addressed the media, they made one thing clear, this wasn’t Sindhu’s victory alone, it was a team victory.
“We were glad that Sindhu clinched the first set. There was tension, but we were sure she would win the second set. At the academy we know how Gopi, Sindhu and all the youngsters toiled hard. This was about a team and I am glad Gopi’s dreams have come true,” said PV Ramana, a volley ball player and Arjuna awardee.
Sindhu, now 21, had been playing badminton since her childhood. "Gopi told us that she has a good talent and we should not stop her. His dream has come true. I thank Gopi," said Ramna.
“She has been training from when she was 10 years old. The last twelve years or so have not been easy for us. The first few years, we used to come to the academy everyday from Secunderabad. She would cry if I could not bring her even for a day. But we are glad that we did all that and followed the rigour. I cannot think Gopi enough,” Ramana said.
“Even if not for medals, all children should indulge in some sports. Play for at least an hour every day,” a smiling Vijaya told NDTV.
Gopichand's wife Pullela Lakshmi, the shuttler who played in the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta, exuded confidence that Sindhu will come back with a gold medal. She was all praise for her performance. "It was amazing display of aggression," she said.