Asian Games: Gayatri Gopichand raring to go

At 15, Gayatri would be making her senior India debut at next month’s Asian Games in Jakarta.

Former All England champion and Chief National coach P. Gopi Chand's daughter Gayatri with her mother, former national champion P.V.V. Lakshmi, in Kochi.   -  STAN RAYAN

He has made Indian badminton players think big, has made them world beaters. P. Gopi Chand is the big reason for badminton’s grand march and the brain behind the success of stars like Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu, K. Srikanth and H.S. Prannoy.

Now, as the chief National coach Gopi’s daughter Gayatri takes her first big steps in the sport, there is a lot of curiosity and many questions too: How does she play? How far will she go? Will she be better than the rest?

At 15, Gayatri would be making her senior India debut at next month’s Asian Games in Jakarta and she’s quite thrilled about it.

“I’m very excited about the Asiad… to be with the senior players, to get to know what they do in big tournaments,” Gayatri said in a chat with Sportstar in Kochi on Saturday evening.

Serious preparation

With nine of the world’s top ten women from Asia, the Asian Games will be as tough as the World Championships. And though Gayatri may not get much game time - since the Indian team has two of the world’s top-ten in Sindhu and Saina - she is taking her preparations very seriously.

Apart from the gruelling training sessions at her dad’s academy in Hyderabad, she watches a lot of videos of world’s best players.

“Tai Tzu Ying (Taipei’s World No. 1) is my favourite international player,” said the girl who took to badminton at six. “Among Indians, I like Srikanth’s game very much, his strokes and smashes are very good and I like Prannoy’s backhand.”

Like Saina and Sindhu before her, Gayatri is clear about her goals.

“I want to win the Olympic gold one day but I have a lot to learn and I need to get stronger, mentally and physically.”

So how does it feel having Gopi Chand, a former All England champion too, as dad. “There is no pressure, I feel confident and nice,” she said.

But there are other issues too that come with the big blessing.

Many, including a few players, have questioned Gayatri’s inclusion in the Asiad team, arguing that the Asian Games should not be used as an exposure trip for young players.

Protective wall

With that being the situation, one could notice a protective wall built around the little girl by her family.

“She doesn’t even know about it,” said her mother P.V.V. Lakshmi, an Olympian and a former national champion.

“Some things like this, we don’t even discuss and frankly speaking, whether you believe it or not, Gopi and I, we have stopped reading newspapers.”

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