Over the years, with numerous victories and impressive performances, Indians have managed to seize the limelight in the world of Badminton. There is no doubt that India is moving towards becoming the next superpower in the sport. Be it any tournament, international or on home grounds, the Indian shuttlers have never failed to leave a mark. Gone are the times when only the Chinese would make it to the finals. While we shower praises on the stalwarts PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and the many others let us also acknowledge the person working relentlessly behind the scenes – Pullela Gopichand.
This man, a great legend, has taken Indian Badminton to a different level altogether. Words will always fall short of describing the greatness of this phenomenal personality. What has he not given to the nation? Be it as a player or as a coach, his contribution to the sport has been immense. The lack of facilities and proper mentors during his time as a player never hindered his grit and performance. From clinching a silver in the team event and a bronze in men’s singles at the 1998 Common Wealth Games to winning the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham in 2001 to being an excellent coach and churning out medals at two consecutive Olympic Games, Gopi has always given his all for the growth of Badminton in the nation.
Pullela Gopichand got into coaching in 2004 and the Badminton Association of India named him the coach of the Indian national Badminton team in 2006. He opened the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad in 2008. Gopi has his own way of training players. Being very strict when it comes to practice, he prioritizes fitness over talent. Talent obviously will take you to success but for that, you have to be utmost fit. He scrutinizes each player, finds out his/her strengths and weaknesses and then decides on which strategy will work well for them and which will not. That said, creating players is what he excels in.
It was under Gopi’s guidance and mentorship that Saina Nehwal won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics and PV Sindhu won the silver at the recent 2016 Rio Olympics. The two have also achieved many other feats, the latest being PV Sindhu’s Indian Open title where she defeated her Olympic rival – Carolina Marin. Parupalli Kashyap, H S Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt and Arun Vishnu are some others among the superstars of his academy. Only last week, India’s reign over the sport has been nothing less than historic. Gayatri Pullela and Samiya Farooqui with their stupendous performances at the Pembangunan Jaya Raya Junior Grand Grand Prix in Jakarta have given high hopes to the future of Indian Badminton.
The two stars not only reached the U-15 Doubles Final but also tackled each other in the Singles Final. They had teamed up against Kelly Larissa and Shelandry Vyola of Indonesia to clinch the U-15 Doubles Title 21-17, 21-15. In the Singles Final, Gayatri defeated Samiya in a three set match 21-11, 18-21, 21-16. Apart from the two, Kavipriya Selvam, Meghana Reddy and Vikas Yadav, all belonging to the U-15 category brought laurels to the nation by securing medals in various events. At the same time, the Singapore Superseries April 2017 saw a similar fate and will always be remembered for a first of its kind occasion where two Indians were to face each other in the finals- Sai Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth! Debutant of a Superseries final, Sai Praneeth defeated Kidambi Srikanth 17-21, 21-17, 21-12.
A new record set, the Indian shuttlers have altogether grabbed eight medals in the last one week. Two by the seniors and six by the juniors. And all these shuttlers are a product of Pullela Gopichand’s academy!
But Gopi is never satisfied. You win a game… Well done. Move ahead and improve yourself further to bring even more victories in the future. This is the attitude with which Gopi makes the demanding task of producing champions at such a steady pace look like an easy one! Now that’s what we call a great coach!