Gopichand: 'Lucky I wasn't good at studies'

Pullela Gopichand and his brother were good at sports. Both wrote the IIT entrance exam. The brother cleared it and stopped playing. Gopichand flunked; went on to win the All-England title in 2001 before setting up a badminton academy that produced two Olympic medals for India.

Published : Aug 31, 2016 14:21 IST , New Delhi

Pullela Gopichand has helped India win two Olympic medals in badminton.
Pullela Gopichand has helped India win two Olympic medals in badminton.

Pullela Gopichand has helped India win two Olympic medals in badminton.

India's chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, who guided Saina Nehwal and P. V. Sindhu to Olympic medals, said he was lucky that he wasn’t good in studies and it was a flunked IIT exam that paved his way to be a successful sportsperson.

“My brother and I both played sports. He was fantastic in sports and now I feel that I was lucky I wasn’t good in studies,” Gopichand said during a felicitation ceremony here.

“He was a state champion. He wrote his IIT exam and passed. He went to IIT and stopped playing. I wrote the engineering exam and failed and I continued in sports and this is where I stand now. I think you have to be focused and even lucky sometimes."

Gopichand went on to become the second Indian to win the All England title in 2001. He retired soon after and decided to open a badminton academy in Hyderabad. But setting one up was tough.

Gopichand said: “I remember having gone to a certain PSU [Public Sector Unit] few years back. I was made to wait for three continuous days outside the room when they promised me support for badminton. But after waiting from 9 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening after three days, a certain officer said that badminton doesn’t have the eyeballs to be a world sport.

“That was the last day I asked anybody for sponsorship. The same night I went back home and, thanks to my parents and wife, mortgaged our house and that is how the academy came up,” he said .

The academy, after twelve years, has produced two Olympic medallists.

"I didn’t know that we could so soon in 2012 win our first medal,” he said, “I started the academy in 2004 with 25 young kids. Sindhu was one of my youngest at about eight years and Parupalli Kashyap was the oldest at 15. When I started coaching I had this dream that India would win an Olympic medal someday."

“I think maybe I should retire now because my goals were all finished and done with,” he said jokingly.

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