Pullela Gopichand is one of the finest sportsperson produced in our country and known as the Dronacharya of Indian badminton. He hails from Nagandla, India. His family moved to Hyderabad when he was a young boy He picked up the sport when he was 11 years old. Though at the start he started playing for fun and soon started participating in local competitions. The turn in Gopichand mindset began in 1991 when he made it to the state’s junior badminton team. He won the junior national championship at age 18 and the men’s national championship three years later.
To hone his skills and take it to another level, shifted base to Bengaluru. He started training under the legendary badminton player Prakash Padukone. He took Indian Badminton to reach great heights when he won an individual bronze and helped the national side win the silver medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. He also holds the rare feat of being the only player to win the 2001 All England Open Badminton Championships, becoming the second Indian after Prakash Padukone. Post retiring from the game, opened own badminton academy, the Gopichand Badminton Academy in 2008.
The real reason and known as the Dronacharya of Indian badminton has Badminton Academy has produced word talented layers such as Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap. The Indian Badminton has gone through major changes in the last few years. Indian players’ dominance on the international level stands proof to the fact that the subcontinent has emerged as a badminton powerhouse and giving tough competition to the opponents at the international arena. Indian badminton’s national coach opened about his winning formula which helped him succeed at the international level as his body could not support his playing career.
But isn’t happy with the current scenario and said, “Now things are different. In 2008 onwards, the initial years, I was the coach, the physio, the manager, I was everything. Today there is a physio, there is a manager, there is a masseur, international coaches, someone for strength and conditioning… there are some 10 people. Now if I look at (the players) they will say, ‘Sir, my physio said this, my strength and conditioning guy said this…’ So now I’m two steps back.”
Badminton came in the spotlight ever since the emergence of his student Saina Nehwal. She is one of the brand ambassador of the game in our country, post-Nehwal became first India’s to win Olympic medal in badminton by winning bronze at London 2012. Later on, also became the first Indian woman to become world no 1. This was followed by PV Sindhu winning silver in women’s singles at Rio 2016 and also became the first-ever Indian to win gold at the World Championships. Another ward to make a mark at the international level has been Kidambi Srikanth who became the first Indian after Padukone to reach the top spot in 38 years.
In Badminton, India has three men’s singles players, two in the women’s singles event, and one men’s doubles pair to be ranked in the top 25. Gopichand had kept a close eye on the progress of the players. But one thing which disturbs him a lot has been the sports hasn’t grown in the way he wanted it to in the country.
He added that structure is missing in today’s times and elaborated by saying that, “Indian badminton needs a structure. Earlier, I was the structure. Everything had to go through me. Now Sindhu has a strength and conditioning coach, she has a physio, she has a masseur, she has a manager, she has parents… She’s surrounded. In 2016, the pressure was mine. What she eats, what she drinks, where she goes, that was all my decision.
He further added that “What Saina did was my decision. But now Saina has (her own support team). So every time I ask them about something, ‘sir my physio is saying this…’ We are actually dealing with another ecosystem. I have one thought process, someone else has another. So I say this is my formula, the player has their formula. We need a little more organisation to set up a structure.”
Badminton legend Gopichand and former international shuttler Supriya Devgun have started an initiative Badminton Gurukul and their main aim is towards contributing significantly towards the introduction of a strong and sustainable physical literacy programme across India.
Gopichand has personally handpicked training coaches. Gopichand was quoted saying that,“With the kind of results we’ve had in the international arena, and the unexpected boom badminton has seen in the last few years, a lot of badminton courts that have come up, and consequently there is an increased requirement for quality badminton coaches across the country.
Keeping all this in mind, Badminton Gurukul has come up with this unique knowledge-sharing forum where we are involving the ex-players to come forward and share their experience with the young and upcoming shuttlers. This is an excellent combination and I am sure it will improve the quality of coaching across India and will lead to a greater talent pool across the country.”