Most athletes will have only one shot at gold when the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begin in summer 2021. But what happens when there are two greats vying for a single Olympic crown? In the first of a series on great sporting rivalries, Tokyo 2020 look at the form, prospects and head-to-head stats of badminton legends Carolina Marin and PV Sindhu.
When the women's badminton competition begins on 24 July 2021, perhaps no potential clash will be more highly anticipated than that of Carolina Marin and PV Sindhu. While the current world number one is Chinese Taipei's TAI Tzu-ying, the popularity of Marin and Sindhu make their rivalry one of the most exciting in the world.
At 27-years-old, Spain's Marin is entering the peak of her career. The reigning Rio 2016 champion added a third World Championship gold medal to her Olympic title when she triumphed in Nanjing in 2018. But the pretender to the throne, India's PV Sindhu - who at 25 is two years her junior - has also amassed an enviable array of trophies that include an Olympic silver medal and the 2019 World Championship title, which she won by beating Japan's OKUHARA Nozomi in the final of a thrilling contest in Basel. In doing so, Sindhu became the first-ever Indian to win gold at the championships.
Who will triumph if they meet at the Olympics? Tokyo 2020 look at both players' prospects below.
Carolina Marin: A force to be reckoned with
Spain's Carolina Marin's record stands up to all scrutiny. As the dominant force in European badminton since 2014, Marin has lined her personal trophy cabinet with one Olympic Games gold (Rio 2016), three World Championships (2014 Copenhagen, 2015 Jakarta, 2018 Nanjing) and four European titles (2014 Kazan, 2016 La Roche-sur-Yon, 2017 Kolding, 2018 Huelva).
She began this year in blistering form at January's Thailand Open Super 1000, a tournament she won without losing a single game, including the final against world number 1 TAI Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei. Her most recent victory was in the Swiss Open in March where she beat none other than PV Sindhu in the final, although injury caused her to pull out of the recent All England Open.
Heading into the European Championships, Marin is again the favourite. If she wins the title this year it will be the first time ever a player has won five European gold medals in a row and will send a message to her rivals that she is in top form heading into the Olympics.
PV Sindhu: The hope of a nation
Among the rivals to Carolina Marin's throne in Tokyo, perhaps none capture the imagination as much as India's PV Sindhu. Silver medallist at Rio 2016, the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow and the 2018 edition in Nanjing, Sindhu finally took her chance to stand on top of the podium when she won the women's singles title at the 2019 World Championships in Basel.
Blessed with lightning reflexes mixed with powerful strikes and a strong backhand, Sindhu will carry the hopes of India on her shoulders heading into Tokyo 2020, as one of the country's brightest medal hopes.
Having suffered a hard-hitting defeat against Marin at this year's Swiss Open (12–21, 5–21), she then succumbed to Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong at the All England Open - again in straight sets. The athlete from Hyderabad now has three months to rediscover her best form before the Olympic competition begins in earnest in Tokyo.
But with a stellar track record behind her, few would bet against Sundhu being a major player when the Olympic competition begins in July.
Head-to-head: Carolina Marin vs. PV Sindhu
The head-to-head record between Marin and Sindhu is a close one, particularly when you look at their stats in major finals. While Marin is on top, both have had the better of each other over the past years. In Tokyo this summer, it will be all to play for with no less than a gold medal on the line.
Head-to-head victories: Carolina Marin 10-5 PV Sindhu
In major finals: Carolina Marin 2-1 PV Sindhu
Olympic titles: Carolina Marin 1-0 PV Sindhu
World titles: Carolina Marin 3-1 PV Sindhu
What they say about each other
Away from the badminton court, Marin and Sindhu have nothing but the utmost respect for each other. They describe their rivalry in near-identical terms, showing that no matter how hard the battle, Olympic values of respect and friendship are as valuable as any trophy.
Marin and I are very good friends. On court, it’s completely different, of course, but off-court, we share a good relationship
PV Sindhu on Carolina Marin - The Times of India
We have a really good relationship off the court but inside the court everyone is an opponent. But we have a very good relationship
Carolina Marin on PV Sindhu - News18.com