Badminton star Sindhu makes millions on Olympic silver medal

India's Sindhu Pusarla reacts during her women's single badminton match against Indonesia's Gregoria Tunjung during their women's single badminton match at 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
India's Sindhu Pusarla returns a shot to Indonesia's Gregoria Tunjung during their women's single badminton match at 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
India's Sindhu Pusarla serves against Indonesia's Gregoria Tunjung during their women's single badminton match at 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India— known as PV — turned a silver medal two years ago in badminton at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics into millions of dollars in endorsements.

She's the favorite to win gold at the Asian Games, though even that result may not yield the same windfall.

The magazine Forbes lists her as the seventh highest-earning female athlete in the world with an income of about $8.5 million — more than 90 percent from endorsements. And almost all from her success in Brazil.

She's second at home in sports earnings only to India cricket captain Virat Kohli.

Tennis star Serena Williams headed the Forbes list of top earners in women's sports, but Sindhu is ranked higher than the No. 1-ranked player on the WTA Tour, Simona Halep of Romania.

"To be in the list is a great feeling because everybody compares you with other players — the big shots," she said Saturday after beating Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia 21-12, 21-15 to reach the quarterfinals.

"Many are coming to me saying now you are a millionaire," she said, breaking into a nervous laugh. She joked that she now ranks with "the legends."

India has dearth of female sports stars, and so Sindhu's success has triggered lots of interest from sponsors.

Another factor driving her marketability is India's previous lack of success in the Olympics.

India has won only one Olympic gold medal in an individual sport. That was with shooter Abhinav Bindra in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The other eight gold medals all came in field hockey, a team event.

India won only two medals in Rio — Sindhu's silver and Sakshi Malik's bronze in women's freestyle wrestling.

Saina Nehwal, a former No. 1-ranked badminton player, cheered Sindhu's ascent.

"I'm happy with what I'm earning, and she is happy with what she's earning," Nehwal said.

Sindhu knows she's growing the game at home.

"Badminton as a sport has been increasing a lot," Sindhu said. "Everybody wants to play badminton right now in India."

There are a million reasons.

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Raj Mohan Viswanathan contributed to this report.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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