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Mentor to the champions

Posted April 11th, 2018, 10:45 AM IST

Mentor to the champions

Credited with honing the skills of many great Indian badminton players, including the latest star Srikanth Kidambi, Pullela Gopichand will surely be remembered as one of the most successful coaches in India’s sporting history

The All England title, Arjuna and Dronacharya awards, and a being champion coach who has trained two players to achieving world number one ranks — his ward Srikanth Kidambi will be crowned No.1 when badminton world rankings are released on Thursday, Saina Nehwal has been there earlier. Add to that the gold his players are digging at the ongoing Commonwealth Games and Padma Bhushan Pullela Gopichand could not have asked for more.




But true to his nature, the high-flyer is keeping his feet firmly on the ground. “It’s a great talent that we have... as far as Srikanth is concerned, the rise has been fantastic. Hopefully, he will continue to keep playing the way he is and will reach greater heights by winning many more tournaments. It is very satisfying to see players grow up the ranks and reach the top of the world. As somebody who has been associated with Indian badminton as a player and later coach I feel very proud of such players,” Gopi said.

Tell him that he’s being talked about as the best sportsperson India has produced for his achievements as player and work as coach, Gopi is all humility. “I am very grateful to God for putting me in that position and I just feel a lot more responsible,” he says softly.

What goes into training champions? “It’s a lot of work — physical as well as mental — over a sustained period of time. It needs a thorough understanding of the sport, looking into various facets of world badminton, of gauging individual performances of the players and exploring the best ways to get the best out of them. There are various aspects involved in making successful players, whether it’s psychology, physiology, diet training. Then you keep trying different things, be constantly on the lookout for areas in which the players’ performances can be optimised,” he adds.

Getting into the mindset of players is one of the biggest challenges for coaches but Gopi has a relatively easy way through. “One of the advantages for me is that I have been working with these players over a sustained period of time and there’s a certain trust — they believe what I say. Also, the fact that the senior players like Sania, (Parupalli) Kashyap or Guru (Sai Dutt) or the younger ones like Sindhu and others set those examples by talking about the number of times they have benefitted and vouch for having seen these things work, instills belief in the younger players. So it’s a lot of trust and belief that the players put in what I say. Sometimes the task at hand might seem impossible and that point of time they take my word and go for it,” the national chief coach explains.

The Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy has produced so many champions. Must be a very proud moment.

“When I was playing I learnt a lot of things from various people — my own coaches, fellow players during my travels to various places for tournaments, my own struggles led me to a lot of thinking and helped me quite a bit. Luckily there was the right atmosphere here in Hyderabad, where I am fortunate to have the Academy at which I have been able to work that dream into reality. It took us lot of time, patience and struggles as well but with the support of my family, friends, sponsors I have been able to push and now we’re happy to see the results,” he says.

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