Among the ten best-paid sports in the world are eight tennis players, a car driver and an Indian badminton specialist. Her silver medal at the 2016 Olympics made her an icon in her country.
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is a star in India, but she is neither a cricket icon nor a Bollywood actress. She practices badminton. And rather well. Number three worldwide, she is one of the favorites of the French Open which takes place until Sunday, October 28 in Paris.
The 23-year-old is already vice-Olympic champion and vice-champion of the world. This excellent record, without being extraordinary, is enough to make her a star in a country of 1.3 billion people where high performance sport is not very successful, despite the exception of cricket and good health some other disciplines such as wrestling, weightlifting or shooting. With two medals (no title), India finished the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in 67th place in the unofficial Nations standings, wedged between Venezuela and Mongolia.
Originally from the city of Hyderabad, in the southern state of Telangana, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, daughter of a volleyball couple, recently crossed Indian and sport boundaries. To everyone’s surprise, she made a sensational debut in August in the top 10 best-paid sportswomen in the world, according to the Forbes ranking for a one-year period between June 2017 and June 2018.
Between Venus Williams (sixth) and Simona Halep (eighth), Sindhu is in seventh place, far behind the undisputed head of the standings, Serena Williams ($ 18 million). The American magazine has an income of $ 8.5 million: $ 500,000 in prize money and $ 8 million, mostly from advertising contracts and sponsors. Without calling into question the entire calculation, we can note a confusion of Forbes , who, as an annual cash prize of the Indian player, took into account all the winnings pocketed by Sindhu on the circuit since the beginning of his career ($ 457,000 exactly).
How can an Indian badminton player find herself in such an isolated stand in the middle of an army of tennis women and former racer Danica Patrick? As such, the Olympic performance of Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in Rio is the trigger for its notoriety and prosperity. “His final of the Olympics has been one of the biggest TV events in history in India. Since then, his income has exploded. It is said that she is the second best paid sportsman in India after the captain of the national cricket team, Virat Kohli, says Owen Lead, commercial director of the World Badminton Federation (BWF). Indian badminton is a growing market, characterized by improvements in infrastructure, greater investment in equipment, better media coverage, etc. ”
In an interview with CNBC in 2017, Tuhin Mishra, managing director of Baseline Ventures, the company that manages the business interests of the Indian, delivered this anecdote: “Before the Olympics, when we contacted the sponsors, often we were told : Sindhu … who? ”
“After Rio, my life has changed a lot”
In the Indian market, brands have long wanted to be associated only national sport, cricket. In 2012, thanks to a bronze medal in London, Saina Nehwal was already able to put badminton on the front of the stage. It had even signed an unprecedented partnership at the time of 5.7 million euros over three years. Badminton has gone from an upscale, upper middle class sport to a mass sport practiced by the entire middle class.
On the eve of her entry in the running in Paris, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu returned to Le Monde on her growing fame: “After Rio, my life has changed a lot. Badminton has gained popularity. I was very well supported by the government, and many partners joined me. I’m very happy to be in a list with legends like Serena Williams, she says. I’m not bored that I’m told about it all the time. It’s exciting because people are now expecting a lot from me. ”
Indeed, the BBC revealed that, for the silver medal of Pusarla Venkata Sindhu at the Olympics, she had received the sum of 130 million rupees, about 1.54 million euros, state and government aid . At the same time, the Spanish Olympic champion Carolina Marin had received a bonus of 82,000 euros for her gold medal. Many sponsors, pell-mell, Bridge stone Tires, Gatorade Nokia or Panasonic, began to support the Indian champion.
Proof of its growing fame, a biographical film is preparing to trace its course. In a still conservative country, this sport is an example for women. “A lot of girls take me as an inspiration. My words to them are simple: working hard is the only key to success in life, “says the champion in polite speech.
It must be remembered that she has not yet won any major international title, failing several times on the second step of the podium. After the film about his (young) life, what would happen in case of Olympic title in two years, in Tokyo? In Bollywood, a suite can be launched very quickly.