Rio de Janeiro: P V Sindhu will strive her very best to become the first-ever woman Olympic champion from India across all sporting disciplines when she takes on world no 1. Carolina Marin in the gold medal contest in women's singles badminton In Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
The country's sports fans would also be fervently hoping that the Hyderabad shuttler's heroics against world champion Spaniard Marin would result in the country's maiden gold medal win in the Rio Games and divert attention away from dope-tainted wrestler Narsingh Yadav's shameful ejection from the 74kg competition.
Narsingh was thrown out of the Games after the ad hoc division of Court of Arbitration for Sports upheld the appeal of World Anti-Doping Agency against the exoneration given to him by the National Anti-Doping Agency for a doping offence committed in June after he cried foul that his food/drinks had been tampered with during training at Sonepat SAI centre.
Away from this sordid drama that was acted out at a four-hour hearing before the grappler was not only thrown out of the Games but also banned for four years, the attention of the entire country would remain focused on Sindhu in her quest for a rare individual gold in Olympics.
Only rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra - eight years ago in the Beijing Games - has become an Olympic champion when he won the men's 10m air rifle competition.
Prior to the Zirakpur ace ascending the highest podium, only the men hockey players held the distinction of being part of the gold medal winning teams on eight occasions - the last one in 1980 at Moscow.
Sindhu is thus standing on the cusp of history for women's sports in the country when she takes on the formidable Spanish girl Marin this morning (6:55pm in India).
At the age of 21 she has already ensured that India would come back with at least two medals from the Games by reaching the final on Thursday with a clinically efficient dismantling of world no. 6 Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.
Sindhu made a historic entry into the final of badminton women's singles event, several hours after woman wrestler Sakshi Malik had nailed the country's first medal following 11 blank days in this Brazilian city.
The lanky Sindhu, ranked 10th in the world, ensured at least a silver medal to add to the country's near-empty kitty after Sakshi had captured the bronze in 58 kg women's wrestling.
With Thursday's brilliant show, Sindhu also went one better than her senior Saina Nehwal, bronze medal winner in London four years ago, and became the first ever Indian to enter the summit clash of the shuttle game in the quadrennial sports spectacle.
Sindhu defeated her short-statured, third-seeded Japanese rival, the current All England champion, 21-19 21-10 in 49 minutes with superb, attacking play to also make sure that she is the youngest Olympic medal winner from the country.
The Indian shuttler from Hyderabad is a two-time bronze medallist in World Championships.
Her opponent in Friday's gold medal contest, Marin ousted defending champion Li Xuerei of China in the first semi-final with a 21-14 21-16 victory.
Apart from this encounter, wrestler Sandeep Tomar (men's 57 kg) and race walkers (Khushbir Kaur and Sapna - women's 20km and Sandeep Kumar - men's 50km), the men's and women's 4x400m relay squads and woman golfer Aditi Ashok (third day of stroke play) would be seen in action during the 14th day's proceedings in Rio de Janeiro.
With inputs from PTI