Gopichand optimistic but non-committal about medals

"I have seen strange things happening in Olympics so we should just go with our preparation and a positive mind. If we have a small chance we should grab it," says the Chief coach.

A total of seven Indian shuttlers, including London Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, have qualified for the Rio Olympics.   -  K. Ramesh Babu

P. Gopi Chand is an eternal optimist. He talks about country’s vast potential in badminton even as he guards against calling India a ‘super power’ in the game.

But ask him for his assessment of India’s prospects of badminton medals from Rio Olympics and Gopi finds a way to stay non-committal.

“I have seen strange things happening in Olympics so we should just go with our preparation and a positive mind. If we have a small chance we should grab it,” says the Chief coach.

In the Capital for the launch of his fourth badminton Academy, and first in Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Gopi maintained it was just about getting two good back-to-back results and one is in with a chance of a medal.

Without being specific about Saina Nehwal’s chances of winning another medal, Gopi said, “Unlike four years ago, the women’s game has moved primarily from being dominated by China. There is a larger base of players winning tournaments in the last few years with Carolina Marin, Ratchanok Intanon, the Koreans and the Japanese coming in. In Rio, it will all boil down to winning two good back to back matches (for a medal).”

Talking of P. V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth, his two trainees, Gopi said the duo was working hard, without any injury-worries. Reflecting on their poor run for the better part of this year, Gopi said, “The year of Olympic qualification is challenging because you play more and more tournaments (for ranking points) but you don’t get the time to rectify the mistakes. Look at Srikanth, once qualified, he reached the semifinals (of Australian Open in June). So I am confident about him.”

About Sindhu, Gopi said, “She has done well in big events like World and Asian championships. I hope she does well. She is working very hard for the Games.”

About the two doubles, Gopi said, “It’s a draw of 16 at the Olympics with two or three being continental entries. So it really boils down to about 13 top pairs. Any player can crack and if you really have one good round, you already are in with a medal-chance.”

Gopi was happy with the infrastructure at Greater Noida’s Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex and said, “This academy will be modelled on the excellence centre, we have built in Hyderabad, and over the next few years we expect talented players to emerge out of here.”

Headed by a foreign coach, the academy will also have three coaches to train about 25 selected children in the age-group of 18-25. “Coming to this part of the country is not so difficult since I keep coming to Delhi very often,” said Gopi, who, after Hyderabad in 2008, opened academies in Gwalior and Vadodara, too.