Gopichand, the Dronacharya of Indian badminton
PV Sindhu, the current Olympic silver medallist and Saina Nehwal, the 2012 bronze winner have one thing in common. Behind the success of these champions is a quiet yet passionate man, busy shaping the future stars of the sport, Pullela Gopichand. Gopichand, the primary reason behind meteoric rise in the success of Indian badminton in the past decade, single-handedly produced some world class athletes.
Pullela Gopichand was a former badminton player and the current national badminton coach of India. Born on 16th Nov 1973, in Andhra Pradesh's Nagandla, Gopichand made his international badminton debut in 1991. His sporting achievements include winning an individual bronze and silver in the team event, at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Gopi's best result was winning the 2001 All England Open Badminton Championship.
How many Indians won the All England Open?
'All England Open Badminton Championships', one of the oldest and most prestigious tournaments, was won by the Indians just twice - once by Prakash Padukone in 1980, and then by Pullela Gopichand, both in Men's Singles.
Donning the hat of a coach
While injuries forced Gopichand to retire from the sport early he decided to turn a coach and took to coaching in 2004. Not after long, in 2006, he was appointed as the chief coach of Indian national badminton team. Over the years that he has been coaching, Gopichand transformed the landscape of badminton in India and prepared some of the world's top players.
Gopichand's badminton Academy
On the 5-acre land allotted to him by Andhra Pradesh Government, Gopichand set up an international badminton academy, in Hyderabad, in 2008. Gopichand took many top players like Saina Nehwal under his wing. It was under him that Saina clinched the 2012 Olympic bronze and Parupalli Kashyap went on to reach the quarter-finals of the 2012 Olympics, a first for an Indian male shuttler.
Awards and Recognition
Pullela Gopichand received many honours both as a player and a coach. He received the Arjuna Award in 1999, the highest sporting honour Rajiv Khel Ratna Award in 2001, and Padma Shri award in 2005. For his contributions to badminton as a coach, he was bestowed upon with the Dronacharya Award in 2009, and the Padma Bhushan Award in 2014.
More players in the making
Some of the other young rising badminton players being coached by Gopichand include the Rio Olympic quarter-finalist Kidambi Srikanth, HA Prannoy, Sai Praneeth, Saurabh Verma, etc,.
Gopichand, a stern taskmaster
Gopichand demands discipline and commitment from his students. This reflects in the way his Academy is maintained which doesn't have internet access and where the usage of mobile phones is restricted to Sundays alone. Sindhu for instance, "did not have her mobile during the last 3 months", preparing for Rio Olympics. Her strict diet deprived her of favorites like sweet curd and ice-cream.