Pullela Gopichand feels past records won't matter much at the Rio Olympics
Former Indian Badminton star and the current Chief National Coach of the Indian team, Pullela Gopichand said that handling pressure in back-to-back matches will be key in earning a medal at the Rio Olympics.
In Greater Noida for the launch of an international academy, Gopichand sounded positive about India’s chances for the men’s and women’s doubles pairs, and urged the players to have the right mindset and make the use of every opportunity that comes along.
“The draw at the Olympics is a small draw. It is a 16-player draw and out of them are 2-3 are just continental entries. So it is really boiling down to 13 top players, which means if you really have one good round you are in with a medal chance already and any of the players can crack. I am just optimistic. I have seen strange things happening in Olympics so we should just go with our preparation and a positive mind and if we have a small chance we should grab it,” Gopichand said.
Speaking about India’s highest-ranked women’s player, Saina Nehwal, Gopichand pointed out the shift in base from China to other countries, with a more varied set of players in contention to win the title. "The women’s singles have moved primarily from the Chinese domination to a larger base of players who have won tournaments in the last few years with Carolina Marin, Ratchanok Intanon, Japanese and Koreans coming in," he said.
“We have a larger contingent this time. We have the men’s doubles qualifying along with the women’s doubles. We have Saina who has won a medal at London as an experienced player,” he added.
Speaking about World Champion Carolina Marin’s chances, Gopichand said “She has not played in the last few months. We should not take it as a baggage going into the Olympics. We should go on with our positives and not think about the records because those doesn’t really make sense.”
A former All England Champion, Gopichand believes that draws won’t be important if the preparation is spot-on. “I believe the draw doesn’t matter so much if you are really looking for a medal. You might have an initial bad round or at the quarterfinals. So I am not worried about that. I know the preparation have been going well,” Gopichand said.
Speaking about India’s chances, and the lack of experience among the set of seven shuttlers ready to represent the nation, the Padma Bhushan awardee said “In a way, our players being at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games is kind of an experience which is there with them and sometimes when you don’t play multi-sport event, Olympics can become really big. But CWG and Asian games is a similar experience at a larger scale.
Commenting on the poor form that Srikanth Kidambi and PV Sindhu have been undergoing in the lead-up to Rio, Gopichand blamed the hectic schedule of the Olympics qualifications. “The year of Olympic qualification is challenging because you don’t get the time to rectify the mistakes because there is the pressure of defending points for qualification. But post the may qualification, Srikanth has played one event and reached the semifinals. So I am confident about him”.
“Sindhu has been working hard. She has delivered in the past at big events such as World Championship and Asian Games and I am hoping she does well here,” he added.