Rio de Janeiro: P V Sindhu's gallant attempt to win a coveted gold medal for India ended in heart-break when she went down fighting against Spain's Carolina Marin and settled for a silver medal in the women's singles badminton competition at the Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
The 21-year-old Indian, who has been simply unstoppable in the tournament so far, crumbled under the tremendous pressure created by the two-time World Champion from Spain to lose 21-19, 12-21, 15-21 in a high-intensity final that lasted for an hour and 23 minutes at the Riocentre in Rio de Janeiro.
Sindhu thus became the fourth Indian to win a silver at the Olympics after shooters Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (2004, Athens) and Vijay Kumar (2012, London) and wrestler Sushil Kumar (2012, London).
The two-time World championship bronze medallist also became the fifth woman player from India to win a medal in Olympics history and the first to clinch a silver. She is also the youngest India to win a medal at the Olympics.
Weightlifter Karnam Malleshwari (2000, Sydney), boxer MC Mary Kom (2012, London), shuttler Saina Nehwal (2012, London) and wrestler Sakshi Malik (Rio, 2016) are the other women players from India to clinch a medal in the quadrennial sports spectacle.
Sindhu, in fact, trailed 16-19 in the opening game before reeling off five straight points to clinch it. She was then outclassed in the second to lose it tamely.
In the decider, the lanky shuttler from Hyderabad trailed 1-6 at one stage and caught up at 10-10 but could not keep the tempo after the short break as Marin simply changed gears to surge to Spain's first gold medal in badminton.
In their last five meetings in the last two years, Marin has beaten Sindhu four times with the Indian gaining an upper hand during the Denmark Super Series last year, but on Friday she could not repeat the feat.
The hyper-aggressive Marin mixed power with precision to dominate the rallies with her acute-angled smashes interspersed with clever drops to catch the Indian often on the wrong-foot.
Sindhu struggled with the length of her strokes as gave away many points by hitting long and wide but she fought tooth and nail till the end only to come second best.
In the opening game, the Spaniard grabbed a 11-8 lead at the interval. Sindhu could not vary the pace of the rallies even as Marin came with some razor-sharp net play to extend the lead to 15-11 at one stage.
A net error and a long shot gave Sindhu two points to narrow the gap and kept breathing down the neck of the Spaniard till 15-17.