One of India’s most successful badminton players, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, has helped take the game to a greater height in the country with her achievements.
Her Olympic silver medal at Rio 2016 - alongside the clutch of medals from the Badminton World Championships - have helped propel the profile of badminton within the country to a whole new level.
Though a lot of credit for her goes to the support and contribution of her long-time coach Pullela Gopichand, not many know the dedication and effort put in by her parents all throughout her career.
Sports in the genes
The world today might know PV Ramana as the father to the Indian shuttle queen PV Sindhu. But for a generation gone by, the man from Andhra Pradesh was one of the fiercest spikers that helped the Indian volleyball team to many successes during its heydays.
He came from a humble background and a large family, which had to make do without his father, who passed away very early in his life.
An employee of Indian Railways in Secunderabad, the 6’3” PV Ramana first played volleyball for India at the age of 20 in the 1984 Asian Junior Volleyball Championship after he impressed in the junior circuit starting from his college days.
Three years into his international career meant he rubbed shoulders with the Indian volleyball team's greats like Jimmy George. It's with that team, where he played the role of a blocker, that India secured a bronze medal at the 1986 Asian Games.
Competition and training might have kept Ramana busy during his playing days, but that never stopped him from helping his daughter chart out her path to success.
In fact, he was even offered the role of a coach for the Indian volleyball team, but his priorities lay elsewhere.
The story goes that the father-daughter duo would travel to the badminton academy in Gachibowli, some 30kms from their house in Marredpally, twice a day daily to ensure that PV Sindhu never missed out on training.
Over the years, Ramana has gone on to become an indispensable part of PV Sindhu’s team.
The father makes it a point to make it to most of the competitions his daughter participates in. Be it the World Championships, the World Tour Finals or the Tour events, there are very few events that the Arjuna awardee has missed in PV Sindhu’s career.
Today, the father understands his daughter's game so well that ahead of her 2019 BWF World Championships gold medal campaign, Ramana took it upon himself to bring in a conditioning and strength coach who could help PV Sindhu push further.
PV Sindhu won her first world title, and the Indian badminton player readily dmits that having a family that understands an athlete’s journey has helped her in many ways.
“Parents are the most important part of an athlete’s success as they understand the psyche of a child better than the others,” PV Sindhu would share in a recent webinar.
“I spend a lot of time with my father watching matches of myself and other players to analyze and plan my strategy against them.”
Vijaya, a mother dedicated to the cause
While PV Sindhu’s father has been her companion from the early days, it’s her mother - Vijaya - who’s ensured that her daughter had the right environment to grow up, both mentally and physically.
Just like her dad, PV Sindhu’s mother was a volleyball player who represented the famed Railways team during her playing days and it was because of the sport the two met, even though she was based in Chennai.
The two often came together at inter-Railway and all-India tournaments and got married shortly after the 1986 Asian Games.
Though Vijaya couldn’t reach the heights that the game took her husband to, she was never the one to complain.
Choosing voluntary retirement from her job in the Indian Railways to help with PV Sindhu’s career, Vijaya has always been the rock that the daughter falls back upon in times of need.
A comforter and a confidant, Vijaya has always been her daughter’s side, hoping and praying for her success both on and off the court.
However, what fills Vijaya with pride is the changing outlook of the society towards women athletes.
“When I was growing up, girls weren’t even allowed to go out and play. Most of the time, getting permission to play was the hardest part,” she would tell the News18 website. “The neighbours would say, 'why is she going out and playing when she should study?”
It’s not a surprise that after PV Sindhu became world champion in August 2019, she chose to dedicate her world title to her mom.
“My mother’s role cannot be quantified and measured,” the Indian badminton player would tell the Sportstar website. “Simply put, if not for her, I couldn’t have had this kind of a career.”