Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (born 5 July 1995) is an Indian professional badminton player. Having made her international debut in 2009, she rose to a career high ranking of no. 2 in April 2017. Over the course of her career, Pusarla has won medals at multiple tournaments including Olympics and on the BWF circuit including a gold at the 2019 World Championships. She is the first Indian to become the Badminton World Champion and the first Indian woman to earn an Olympic silver medal.
Pusarla broke into the top 20 of the BWF World Ranking in September 2012 at the age of 17. Beginning in 2013, Pusarla won a medal at every world championships, with the exception of 2015. She is just the second woman after Zhang Ning to win five or more medals at the world championships. Pusarla represented India at the 2016 Summer Olympics, becoming the first Indian badminton player to reach a final. She won the silver medal after losing out to Spain’s Carolina Marin.
Pusarla won her first superseries title at the 2016 China Open and followed it up with four more finals in 2017, winning the titles in South Korea and India. In addition to that, she has won a silver medal each at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, and two bronze medals at the Uber Cup.
With earnings of US$8.5 million and $5.5 million respectively, Pusarla made the Forbes‘ list of Highest-Paid Female Athletes in 2018 and 2019. She is the recipient of the sports honour Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, and India’s fourth highest civilian award, the Padma Shri. She was also honoured with Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, in January 2020.
Early life and training
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu was born in Hyderabad to P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya. Both her parents have been national level volleyball players. Her father, Ramana, who was a member of the Indian volleyball team that won the bronze medal in 1986 Seoul Asian Games, received the Arjuna Award in 2000 for his contribution to the sports.
Pusarla lives in Hyderabad, Telangana. She was educated at Auxilium High School, Hyderabad and at St. Ann’s College for Women, Hyderabad. Though her parents played professional volleyball, Pusarla chose badminton over it because she drew inspiration from the success of Pullela Gopichand, the 2001 All England Open Badminton Champion. She eventually started playing badminton from the age of eight. Pusarla first learned the basics of the sport with the guidance of Mehboob Ali at the badminton courts of Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications in Secunderabad. Soon after, she joined Pullela Gopichand’s Gopichand Badminton Academy. While profiling Pusarla’s career, a correspondent with The Hindu wrote:
“The fact that she reports on time at the coaching camps daily, traveling a distance of 56 km from her residence, is perhaps a reflection of her willingness to complete her desire to be a good badminton player with the required hard work and commitment.”
Gopichand seconded this correspondent’s opinion when he said that “the most striking feature in Pusarla’s game is her attitude and the never-say-die spirit.” After joining Gopichand’s badminton academy, Pusarla won several titles. In the under-10 years category, she won the 5th Servo All India ranking championship in the doubles category and the singles title at the Ambuja Cement All India ranking. In the under-13 years category, Pusarla won the singles title at the Sub-juniors in Pondicherry, doubles titles at the Krishna Khaitan All India Tournament IOC All India Ranking, the Sub-Junior Nationals and the All India Ranking in Pune. She also won the under-14 team gold medal at the 51st National State Games in India.
An Economic Times report published in March 2017, said that she is second only to Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli when it comes to earnings from brand endorsements. Pusarla charges brands anywhere between ₹10 million (US$140,000) and ₹12.5 million (US$180,000) for a single day of endorsement-related activities.
Pusarla has endorsement deals with JBL, Bridgestone Tyres, sports drink Gatorade, pain reliever ointment Moov, online fashion store Myntra, e-commerce portal Flipkart, phone maker Nokia and electronics major Panasonic. She also endorses Stayfree, health drink Boost, honey producer APIS Himalaya, herbal health drink firm Ojasvita and the Bank of Baroda. She is also a brand ambassador for both the Central Reserve Police Force and Vizag Steel.
In February 2019, it was announced that Pusarla had signed a four-year sports sponsorship deal for ₹500 million (US$7.0 million) with Chinese sports brand Li Ning. Pusarla’s deal is one of the biggest in world badminton. Pusarla reportedly will get ₹400 million (US$5.6 million) as sponsorship while the rest of the money will be for equipment. This was Li-Ning’s second stint with Pusarla, who was with them for two years in 2014-2015 for a sum of ₹12.5 million (US$180,000) a year. In 2016, Pusarla was back with Yonex for a ₹35 million (US$490,000) per year contract for a period of three years.
- Honoured with Padma BhushanAward, the third-highest civilian award in India, in January 2020.
- Honoured with Padma ShriAward, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in March 2015
- Received Rajiv Gandhi Khel RatnaAward, the highest sporting honour of India, on 29 August 2016
- Bestowed with Arjuna Awardfor badminton on 24 September 2013
Pusarla has been employed with Bharat Petroleum since July 2013, as an assistant sports manager with their Hyderabad office. Following her silver-medal win at the Rio Olympics, she was promoted to deputy sports manager. She was appointed as the first brand ambassador of Bridgestone India. She was also appointed as the Deputy Collector (Group-I) by the Andhra Pradesh government.
Awards and recognition
- Padma Bhushan, Third Highest Civilian Award of India (2020).
- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, highest sporting honour of India (2016)
- Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India (2015)
- Arjuna Award(2013)
- FICCIBreakthrough Sportsperson of the Year 2014
- NDTV Indian of the Year2014
- ₹1 million(US$14,000) from the Badminton Association of India, for her victory in the 2015 Macau Open Badminton Championships.
- ₹500,000(US$7,000) from the Badminton Association of India, for her victory in the 2016 Malaysia Masters
- TV9 Nava Nakshatra Sanmanam – 2019
Rewards for winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics
- ₹50 million(US$700,000), and a land grant from the Government of Telangana.
- ₹30 million(US$420,000), a Group A cadre job(Deputy Collector of Andhra Pradesh) and 1000 yd2 land grant from the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
- ₹20 million(US$280,000) from the Government of Delhi.
- ₹7.5 million(US$110,000) from her employer, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, with promotion from assistant to deputy sports manager.
- ₹5 million(US$70,000) from the Government of Haryana.
- ₹5 million(US$70,000) from the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
- ₹5 million(US$70,000) from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- ₹5 million (US$70,000) from Badminton Association of India
- ₹5 million(US$70,000) from NRI businessman, Mukkattu Sebastian
- ₹3 million(US$42,000) from the Indian Olympic Association.
- ₹500,000(US$7,000) from All India Football Federation.
- BMWcar from the Hyderabad District Badminton Association and as well as Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar
- ₹101,000(US$1,400) from Salman Khan, for qualifying as an Olympic participant.
- Miniature badminton racquet memento with gold and diamond from Kirtilals