In the 30-year old history of the China Open Super Series, there were only three rare occasions wherein a non-Chinese player emerged as a winner amongst the women. Two of them were Indians, Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, both coached by the same person, Pullela Gopichand.
A player par excellence in his days, soon after retirement, Gopichand set up his own badminton academy in Hyderabad and over the years has churned out world-class players who have been on the pinnacle with their achievements on the international circuit.
At a press conference organized by IDBI Federal on Thursday in Mumbai, Gopichand was present with a host of his star students including Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Sikki Reddy, Sameer Verma and Sai Praneeth amongst others.
While Gopichand expressed his gratitude towards IDBI for financially backing his academy through their “Quest for Excellence” program, his students shed light on the coach’s positive influence, his guidance and dedication towards the sport.
Reminiscing an anecdote for her glorious Olympic run, Sindhu said, “All my achievements till date can be credited to Gopi sir’s efforts. I was up against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals and although I was adamant about the fact that I did not want to return home with a bronze, at one stage in the match I was trailing 0-3.
That’s when Gopi sir came into the picture, he gave me tips mid-way through at the 11 point break. Looking at me from the sidelines, he obviously had a better idea of how I was playing and had an idea about the on-court proceedings. He instilled confidence in me at that moment telling me to ‘Jump and Toss, Jump and Smash’ and I went on to win the clash.
“So he obviously has played a major role in my success, instrumental in all my performances till date.”
Further adding on to that, Srikanth, the first Indian to win a Super Series Premier Men's title at the 2014 China Open, said, “Gopi sir wakes up at 3.45 AM and is on the court by 4.15 AM, that itself speaks volumes for his dedication. Moreover, he is always on the move, constantly researching and on the look-out for new methods of training, game plans, helping us improve our individual game day-in and day-out.
“Thus, it’s not just the coaching on court but a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts which makes Gopi sir, the best possible coach for all badminton players in India.”
Commonwealth Game gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap who has been training under Gopichand for the longest time, almost a decade, threw further light on his contribution. “When Gopi sir was playing he faced several problems in terms of injury concerns, no physiotherapists, lack of an overall support but for all of us, he’s made sure that all these gaps have been filled in quite adequately and we have to focus on nothing other than our game.
“Consistency, dedication and hard work is the key to his success. China and Korea have around twenty coaches in the sport to give them positive results, but in India, Gopi Sir alone manages to give the equal amount of results. One against twenty, quite a stunning statistic, isn’t it?”
Elaborating on how Gopichand helps his recruits deal with rough patches in the career, HS Prannoy said, “Back in April, I suffered a major injury which kept me out of play for almost six months. But at the very beginning, Gopi sir came up to me and told me that out a playing career of 9-10 years, one should keep a couple of them aside just for injuries and then work hard on leaving a mark in the remaining 8 years.
“Those words actually left me happy, happy that I had picked up the injury and now I just had one and a half year more of injuries!” While, Sikki Reddy attributed the coach’s humble nature, of treating all players like his own family as the ingredient to his success.”
Gopichand, however, himself concluded the session with some golden words when he said, “All of them have harped on the fact about how amazing I am as a coach but what they've all missed out on, is how amazing they, are as players. To be able to trust me, have a deep belief in me as a coach since a very tender age, they all are winners in their own right”