Singing paeans to Sindhu

“Sindhu is a huge inspiration for all the young trainees at the academy. Just hope a couple of more Sindhus will emerge,” says India’s chief coach Pullela Gopi Chand.

A champion and her mentor. “I think she has coped remarkably well with the pressures and demands of being an Olympic medallist. And that was possible because of her commitment and unbridled passion for the sport,” says coach Pullela Gopi Chand of his famous ward, P. V. Sindhu.   -  V. RAJU

Life hasn’t changed much for Pullela Gopi Chand after his famous ward P. V. Sindhu won the silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The former All England champion-turned coach continues to guide many gifted badminton players at his academy in Hyderabad, without making any major changes to his demanding daily training schedule that begins at 4. 30 a.m. and ends late in the evening with a couple of hours break in between.

“You have to set an example for these trainees to realise what it takes to be a good player, since the whole objective is to produce champions. I am enjoying my job, I can’t stay away from the academy for too long,” says Gopi.

When Sindhu won the women’s singles title at the India Open recently, defeating Carolina Marin, the Olympic champion, in the final, there was joy on Gopi’s face. “This is a very good result, and to beat Marin in the final is definitely special,” says Gopi, who had won the Dronacharya Award in 2009.

Giving his impressions on Sindhu’s performance in the India Open, the 43-year-old coach, who has the distinction of having produced two Olympic medal winners (Saina Nehwal: bronze, 2012 London Olympics and Sindhu: silver, 2016 Rio Olympics), says: “I think the variety of strokes she dished out and her net game were terrific. She has improved a lot more now.

“I think she has coped remarkably well with the pressures and demands of being an Olympic medallist. And that was possible because of her commitment and unbridled passion for the sport.

“I must tell you, she knows what her job is and really works hard even now. This is evident from her impressive results in so many big events after the Olympics. Overall, she has been doing really well in the big league.”

Looking ahead, Gopi says: “The focus now shifts to the World Championships. Being a big-match player, Sindhu is capable of improving upon her performance (she won the bronze in 2013 and 2014) this time around.

“There is intense competition in the women’s singles in the last few months after the Rio Games. It has opened up a lot and the top eight to 10 are capable of winning any major title on their day.”

Following her silver medal-winning performance in the Rio Olympics, off-court engagements have taken much of Sindhu’s time. Did it give Gopi anxious moments?

“Not really. A lot of planning goes into her training schedule. Yes, for a couple of months it was not that regular but she really worked hard to regroup herself in time,” explains Gopi.

“I am really happy with the way she has progressed post Olympics,” he adds.

Any areas in Sindhu’s game that need more focus now?

“Maybe fitness and a few other things pertaining to her game which, for obvious reasons, we will not discuss publicly,” says Gopi.

“Well, in terms of impact, she is a huge inspiration for all the young trainees at the academy. Just hope a couple of more Sindhus will emerge,” Gopi concludes.