Gopi Chand sets his eyes on 2020 Tokyo Olympics

After a very 'satisfying' 2018, Pullela Gopi Chand said that his focus is now on booking as many berths as possible for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Pullela Gopi Chand is confident that Indian shuttlers will do well in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.   -  K.V.S. Giri

P. Gopi Chand, who has coached Indian badminton to an unthinkable level from say a decade ago, has already set his eyes on the challenges for the new year — chiefly to book as many 2020 Tokyo Olympics berths as possible.

“After what I feel has been a very satisfying 2018 — despite being very tricky for men’s singles for different reasons, including injuries to key players — I think it is time to move over and look ahead for the Olympics qualifying cycle,” said Gopi in an exclusive chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.

“I feel after the Olympics, Asiad and Commonwealth Games are very important. And, for Indians to win medals is something truly remarkable there. The doubles pairs have done exceptionally well too,” the 45-year-old said.

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“I am not worried about K. Srikanth’s form in terms of winning titles which was essentially because of injuries at the wrong time. I don’t see any need for him to change his game. I am sure he will regain the kind of form he showed last year,” Gopi said.

“Sindhu has had a phenomenal year, though not in terms of winning titles, but capped it off in style winning the BWF Super Series Finals,” he said. “I think Sindhu has answered more to herself than to anyone else that the finals’ jinx should now be a thing of the past,” he added.

“Even Saina (Nehwal) has had a great comeback this year. Generally, it has been a very tough year for everyone because of the BWF rule making it mandatory to play 12 events in a calendar year. I admire the way the players responded to this challenge — physically and mentally too,” he said.

“It has been a wonderful challenge, of course, to train these two champion shuttlers,” he added.

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On the absence of even one women’s singles player who can be rated high after Saina and Sindhu, Gopi stressed on the need for a system which has quality coaches and a proper tournament structure to produce young and exciting talent. “A lot needs to be done for sure.”

On whether the process has already been delayed too long, Gopi said, “Fortunately, there is abundance of talent as was seen in the Asian sub-junior and junior level. All that is needed, I repeat, is to have a system to help them.”

On the on-going PBL, he felt it has been exciting so far for Indian players like Lakshya Sen and Rituparna Das who have done well.

“The biggest positive has been the opportunity for the players to travel to different cities and importantly training with world-class players,” Gopi said.