With yet another edition of the Summer Olympics coming up, Pullela Gopichand is busy charting the paths to glory of one of his students. The coach, who has delivered two Olympic medals in the past two editions, is now preparing Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth to join the likes of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu in finding success on the biggest stage.
This time PV Sindhu will not be accompanying Pullela Gopichand as his prime student. Instead, the Rio OIympic silver medalist will be joining the Indian contingent with her South Korean coach Park Tae Sang. On the other hand, it will be Sai Praneeth who will be with Pullela Gopichand at the Tokyo Olympics.
Sai Praneeth: India's first World Championship medalist since Prakash Padukone
While India has had its fair share of good players, Sai Praneeth is quite different. A young player with immense potential, Sai showed promise with a bronze medal at the 2010 Junior World Championships. However, it took him nine years to find his true calling.
While Pullela Gopichand is well-known for producing players like Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap, it was surprisingly Sai Praneeth who ended India's medal drought in men's badminton at the World Championships. His bronze medal in the 2019 edition made him the second Indian man to achieve this feat since Prakash Padukone in 1983.
Sai Praneeth also has tons of experience against both Japanese and Chinese shuttlers and it could come handy at the Tokyo Olympics.
Can Sai Praneeth achieve what no Indian male shuttler did?
However, the ultimate question persists - can Sai Praneeth achieve India's first Olympic medal in men's singles? The answer is definitely yes; he can accomplish what even Parupalli Kashyap or Kidambi Srikanth couldn't achieve in their previous attempts.
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What the Hyderabadi shuttler needs to keep in check is his tendency to give in during the crucial final stages of any match. His habit of crumbling under pressure cost him a potential gold medal at the 2019 World Championships. If Sai Praneeth manages to overcome this tendency, he can very well maintain the impeccable legacy his coach Gopichand has established at the Olympics.