Gopi Chand expects shuttlers to avoid distractions at Rio

With the six shuttlers going through the grind at his two Academies here, Gopi Chand took time off to share his thoughts on the Games which is the best-ever chance for Indians to win medals in badminton.

Physio Ch. Kiran, Kidambi Srikanth, chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand and P.V. Sindhu share a few thoughts at the Gopi Chand Academy in Hydedrabad.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

India’s chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopi Chand’s success mantra for the shuttlers who made it to Rio Olympics next month is pretty simple – go with a clear mind, stay focused, keep a healthy body and seize the chances with both hands.

With the six shuttlers (other than Saina Nehwal training in Bengaluru) going through the grind at his two Academies here, Gopi took time off to share his thoughts on the Games which is the best-ever chance for Indians to win medals in badminton.

“As far training programmes are concerned, they are spot on. I am glad that each one of them is really putting in lot of hard work,” says the 42-year-old Gopi. “They are all definitely very focused and working on lot of things to get the desired results. Those who are making their Olympics debut are also experienced enough to handle the pressure and aura of such an event,” he pointed out.

“I remember in my first Olympics (2000 in Sydney) when a lot of big stars were showing a lot of interest in petty things like pins, souvenirs, getting carried away by the aura of the Games Village where you see some of the greatest athletes walking around. Even the huge dining hall in the Games Village is a big distraction because of the varieties served there,” Gopi recalls.

“So, I sincerely advise this squad to stay away from all distractions including social networking sites at least during Olympics. They can really be a major hindrance in staying focused, especially, if you are an extrovert and trying to share your ‘moments’ on these sites,” says the former All England champion who interestingly doesn’t have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account.

“Momentum is very important. In the last one week before we leave for Olympics, we do work on strategies since the draws have come out which again I feel are pretty good from an Indian perspective except for Sindhu who has her task cut out but is anyhow ready for the huge challenges. In Olympics or for that matter in any event, you can’t choose your opponents. I have seen strange things happen like in last Olympics when the top seed in doubles was knocked out,” explained Gopi to a query.

“This Olympics is different for me as a coach given the fact that we have a few of them who are real medal prospects unlike in the London Games where there were only a couple of them and here I must mention the immense contribution of physio Kiran who has been with us for the last seven years,” Gopi remarked.

Gopi came out with this opinion on the Rio-bound shuttlers training at his Academy.

On Kidambi Srikanth: "His attack is his strong point and he has really worked a lot in the last two months. I don’t think not winning any major title in the run-up to Olympics will be a deterrent to his dreams of an Olympic medal."

On PV Sindhu: "Attack, court coverage and physical strength are her biggest assets. She can be a dangerous customer to any one in the world on her day. She has been working a lot on how to be consistent throughout the Games. A big-match player, she should come good in Olympics."

On Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa: "I admire their spirit and the kind of hard work they are putting in though Ashwini joined late as she was not well. They have the experience to handle pressure. All they need is one good round to start with to keep going."

On Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri: "To get to the Olympics they have really done well. They have something to show off giving their best in Rio given the efforts they put in.