A world champion, we're often led to imagine, exists in a parallel realm where focus is oxygen and detachment, elixir. PV Sindhu is the newest inhabitant of that universe. She squeals gaily over celebratory dinner plans in Basel and pauses to make mental notes over whether she can allow herself to cut some slack for the next couple days. The 24-year-old Indian has just won a world title.
A mammoth, crazed moment in Indian sport.
She's overwhelmed, rendered short of expressions and fighting a nagging cold. But beyond the schoolgirl-giggle and modest admission of her fresh status, there's a sense of ownership, motored by persistence and grudging second-place tributes.
"Frankly, I've been expecting this moment to come," Sindhu told ESPN hours following her win, "I think I've got silver off my name now. After two silver medals in a row, this was the much-needed gold. I just kept telling myself, 'I want this, I want this, I have to get this, I have to get this'. When I saw the national flag being raised, I felt my chest choke. I think the feeling of being a world champion hasn't sunk in entirely."
Her path to the final and a gold opened up gloriously after she gritted her way past the moon-sized crater in former world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, from a game down, in the quarterfinals. The 'assured bronze' headlines could well take a hike. She was going for gold.
"Tai was definitely the toughest player in the draw and taking a close match like that really did a lot for my confidence. It was the turning point for me in this tournament. Even when I was trailing or a game down, I just hung on to hope and knew I could still swing the momentum. I think that belief really helped."
On Sunday, Sindhu inflicted massacre upon the Jakobshalle arena with her ruthless, manic play, reducing Japanese opponent Nozomi Okuhara to a shadow of her usual self.
"I actually prepared really well. I was alert on the court at all times, at every point. Even when I'd open a huge lead in both games, at the changeover I just told myself 'it's not over yet, I need to keep at it and see this through'".
There's also something to be said about Korean coach Kim ji Hyun, who joined the national set-up in April this year, and spends her afternoons at the Hyderabad academy chiselling Sindhu's net play, deceptive skills and wrist work.
"You know, every coach has a different work ethic. The way I see it, Kim is the person who's pumping me up even when I'm down in the dumps. Of course, Gopi sir has always been there and so have my parents."
She calls her Worlds gold medal "very different" from her Olympic silver from four years ago.
The only commonality they are strung by, she says, are in both being "special". Otherwise, she'd rather have them labelled and stowed away separately and would neither rank, prefer or pick one over the other.
But in a scenario less than a year to the Olympics, with Tai Tzu no longer invincible and reigning gold medallist Carolina Marin yet to return to the circuit after the ACL injury she suffered on her right knee during January's Indonesia Masters final, Sindhu may feel secretly assured.
Of course, she dismisses any such suggestion promptly. "The top 10-15 players in the women's circuit are more or less of the same strength. Anyone can beat anyone. It's just about that day. That's all," she says.
Back home, countless social appearances await her on her arrival. It's not quite the part Sindhu is looking forward to the most. She lets us in on the indulgence she wouldn't mind dipping into for now. "Maybe we'll have a party when I get back. For now, I just want to enjoy."