Indian badminton has come a long way from the days when it was removed from even the priority list of the Union Sports Ministry and the national squad too was not sent for the Commonwealth Games, said chief national coach P. Gopi Chand on Saturday.
Speaking at the formal launch of Kotak Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy, Gopi traced the evolution of Indian badminton stating the historic moment being the 1980 All England title triumph by ‘Prakash Sir’ when he was as a young talent was growing up..
“I remember the days when no Indian had reached the quarterfinal of All England for 16 years after that. Those were days when India struggled to beat evenly lowly-ranked teams like New Zealand,” Gopi said.
“Slowly things started looking good in the late 90s. Then the lack of facilities was clearly felt. So, when I started coaching at Gachibowli in 2004 and within two years Saina (Nehwal) made the first impact with her exploits on the international circuit and then went on to be one of the consistent performers, Indian badminton caught the imagination,” he explained.
“Well, 2008 Beiijng Olympics was another significant as a young Saina reached the quarterfinal. Then there was the women’s doubles combination of Jwala and Shruthi (Kurien) who won quite a few international titles including the World championship bronze (first by Indian women shuttlers),” Gopi said. “Saina’s historic bronze in 2012 London Olympics was historic for sure,” he added.
“Definitely, 2016 and 2017 were truly special for Indian badminton with Sindhu winning the Olympics silver and Srikanth becoming the World No.1 and soon others like Sai Praneeth (World championship men’s singles bronze medallist), Prannoy, Kashyap also doing well,” Gopi said.
“And then the historic Thomas Cup triumph last year was truly memorable and I am glad that nine of the 10 members of that team are now here in front of me,” he said.
“So, in this backdrop, I am really grateful to Kotak Mahindra Bank for spontaneously accepting my proposal to develop this worldclass infrastructure which not only has six badminton courts but full-fledged sports science centre which many lead shuttlers have been asking for long time and also a facility for coaches development course,” the former All England champion explained.
“Now, I hope this one-stop facility for all the modern amenities which any athlete would look for (the facility also has a full-fledged synthetic athletic track) will only see more world and Olympic champions,” he said.
Whole-time Director of Kotak Mahindra Bank Shanti Ekambaram said it would be a permanent partnership in promoting sports going far beyond Gopi also.
“We share a common vision with Gopi in nurturing young talent and developing sports infrastructure,” she said.
Mr. L.V. Subrahmanyam, former Chief Secretary of Government of Andhra Pradesh and Trustee of the Academy, hoped the new facility would be a centre of learning different facets of life too for the champion shuttlers.
“It is important not just to be champions on court but also in following principles of life like honesty, humility and sincerity,” he said.
Some of the big names like Saina, Srikanth, Kashyap felt that they were lucky Gopi took to coaching ust when they were in their formative years.
“But for these facilities (referring to the previous two Academies of Gopi), we would not have won so many titles. Definitely, he has changed our mindset to become better players on a bigger stage,” they said.
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