P Gopichand, India's chief badminton coach, has heaped praise on the quality of badminton players in the country. He believes that Indian badminton could be the best in the world. Gopichand said:
"Indian badminton is there to be among the best nations in the world for many years to come and possibly dominate world badminton"
Gopichand's comments came in episode six of the documentary series 'The Academy'. Produced by the Olympic channel, episode six is titled 'The Future of Indian Badminton'.
The episode was shot at the SAI-Gopichand National Badminton Academy. The academy has produced two Olympic medal winners - Saina Nehwal, who won bronze in London, and PV Sindhu, who clinched silver in Rio. Both were trained by Gopichand.
Recalling PV Sindhu's women's singles final at Rio Olympics 2016, Gopichand showered praise on her opponent, Carolina Marin:
"It was a good match and eventually Carolina deserved to win. It was great to see her win."
The Gopichand Academy is a conveyor belt for badminton talent in India. But it is not easy to sustain the rigors and the tough schedule of the academy. A normal day begins between 4 and 5 in the morning. M Meghana Reddy, an U15 Asia Doubles gold medalist, hones her skills at the academy. She dreams of being an Olympic Champion some day. This is what her normal day looks like:
She starts her day at five in the morning. After her morning drills, she has her breakfast at the academy before heading back home. She then takes a nap. After lunch, she is back at the academy and trains till evening. Once back home, she has to study till late at night.
According to Gopichand, there are three pilars for a sport to succeed:
The system has to be coach-led. At the center of the system should be aspiring athletes. And the whole system should be driven and supported by sports science.
But it's just not badminton that Gopichand focuses on. He has started supporting Athletics too. Track and Feild events always interested Gopichand. He now supports 40 budding athletes.
Former 400m sprinter K. Mridula appreciates Gopichand's gesture to back athletics. In praise of Gopichand, she says:
"He has adopted athletics...but his game is different, to have that heart, to have that mind, no one can do like that."
For Gopichand, it's all about adding value to the kids' lives.
"Overall for me, sport has great value and it is very important that we push sport for all our kids."
You can enjoy the full documentary here:
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