Gopi: ‘We have a very strong contingent for All England Championship'

“Each year we are emerging stronger and stronger to be world beaters. And, this All England will be a huge platform to serve another reminder of our growing stature,” says Gopi Chand.

"I am sure we are going to crack it this time at the All England Championship," says Gopi Chand.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

P. Gopi Chand’s tryst with the All England Championships in UK is now part of badminton folklore.

READ: Fit-again Saina ready to take on the best at All England Championship

For, it was there on March 11, 2001, that Gopi became only the second Indian to win the prestigious tournament after the legendary Prakash Padukone.

But when Gopi steps up in this year’s edition (March 7-12) to guide the destiny of his team, which has potential champions like P. V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth, he will be keen to confine those golden moments to nostalgia and keep moving ahead.

It may be mentioned here that London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal is also part of the Indian team but trained by Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru.

“Yes, All England continues to be one of the biggest events because of its rich legacy and aura. When badminton was not part of the Olympics, it was the biggest championship which many dreamt of winning.

“But, I must say many players even now still want to win this title for sure,” Gopi said.

“There is a rich history to the whole event which makes it so special. There is a special kind of pressure when you play in the All England.

“It does still require special kind of preparations for all the top players — not just game-wise but so many factors are involved,” said the 43-year-old Gopi.

“I don’t think any player who has won Olympic and World Championship medals will consider his career complete without winning the All England.

“I would rather put it this way — Olympics, World Championship and All England are the top three events on the circuit,” the chief National coach said.

“I do believe that an Olympics medal is the ultimate now.”

Why has no Indian clinched the All England honour in the 16 years since Gopi did?

“We cannot find any particular reason. But, we must remember that we did have some very good performances like semifinal appearances.

“But, I am sure we are going to crack it this time,” he said.

“We have a very strong contingent. I don’t want to single out any one or two players (in men and women’s sections) who could be favourites.

“But, somehow, I have a feeling that we are going to put up a special performance this time around,” Gopi remarked.

“Each year we are emerging stronger and stronger to be world beaters. And, this All England will be a huge platform to serve another reminder of our growing stature,” he said.

“Yes, winning the All England title in 2001 was the defining moment of my career. It showed in how I was perceived by the world, the kind of platform it gave me then,” Gopi said.

What kind of influence does Gopi as a former All England champion have on the Indian squad?

“All of them are working hard. My only advice to them is to keep things simple. Be brave to seize the key moments in a match,” he said. “Well, just wish the players will have the connect (of me winning it in the past) when they reach the final,” he said with a smile.

What changes had he observed in the game since his playing days?

“I think the game is faster. Lots of changes in the sport too with defence being very strong and the overall court coverage far superior,” he concluded.

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