P. Gopi Chand: India’s objective should be to eliminate barriers to sports

Winning a few medals in the Olympics may not necessarily mean India will be a superpower in sports, says India’s chief badminton coach.

Gopi Chand: “I hope to see the day there is no poverty in fitness for want of physical activity.”   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Winning a few medals in the Olympics may not necessarily mean India will be a superpower in sports, India’s chief badminton coach P. Gopi Chand has said.

“It is only when the kids explore the boundaries to enjoy sport and we ensure that the basic needs are addressed with regard to their passion so that they can enjoy and love any sport, I feel we will achieve our objective,” Gopi said at a panel discussion on ‘Roadmap for India to become a superpower in sports’ organised by Gaudium Sportopia Centre of Excellence, a school which aims at an integrated approach to sports and academics.

‘Ambitious project’

“Honestly, I have not seen anywhere in India the kind of badminton courts the Gaudium Centre here has. I salute the commitment and passion of Ms. Kirthi Reddy (Director & Founder of Gaudium) in executing her ambitious project,” he said.

“I hope to see the day there is no poverty in fitness for want of physical activity. We need to educate parents to let their kids play any sport for it teaches them to be better individuals,” he explained.

Need for idols

Renowned chess coach R. B. Ramesh felt one of the biggest challenges was the parents’ desire to see their kids become stars overnight. “So, there is a strong need to balance that in grooming the young talent. And, in way, any sports needs idols as we had the great [Viswanathan] Anand when we grow up. For instance, only when Magnus Carlsen won the World Championship, did Norway introduce chess in schools and now it is immensely popular with most of the big games even broadcast live,” Ramesh, whose trainees include R. Praggnanandhaa, the latest sensation and the fourth-youngest GM ever, said.

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Ramesh also commented on India’s growing stature in chess. He felt many were scared of facing the young Indian talent now and this was possible because of structured coaching.

‘On a high’

Former national table tennis champion S. Raman, who trains G. Sathiyan, felt India badly needed infrastructure that can combine academics and sporting excellence like the Gaudim School, which he felt was one of the best things to happen in India. “Indian table tennis is on a high. We have the Junior World No. 1 Manav Thakkar and won an Asian Games medal which is like an Olympic medal for us given the fact that most of the powerhouses of table tennis are in Asia. So, we have talent, it is only a question of grooming it in the right manner,” he said.

R. Ashwin: “We need to change the education system.” File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

 

Raman recalled that he had recently seen a poster of G. Sathiyan in China during a national camp, which suggested the Indian can be a real challenge to their supremacy.

Systemic change needed

According to India off-spinner R. Ashwin, no student studied mathematics to be a Ramanajan or science to go to space. “Since there is no option, they study these subjects. So, I feel that sports should be made compulsory in the school curriculum to unearth talent. We need to change the education system and this is where I feel Gaudium stands apart,” he said.

NBA Basketball Schools India technical director Leo Bruno revealed that he didn’t come to India four years ago expecting a dramatic change in the world of sports here. “There is passion everywhere but sports needs to be embedded in the education system like in U.S.,” he stressed.

‘Life lessons’

Sean Jamison of Wanderers Sports Medical Centre (South Africa), which will be involved with Gaudium here, said sports united people of different races and cultures in his home country. “We take pride in that and so in India, too, by teaching life lessons to the young kids even while promoting sports, it will go a long way in shaping India into a superpower in sports,” he said.

Mr Mangipudi Prasad, Co-founder of Sportszlive, anchored the debate.