Gopichand: 'Sindhu played like a champion'

"Our objective was to finish on a high, fight until the last point. I am glad that Sindhu put up a great show in the final, coming back into the game quite a few times after being down. But we must acknowledge that (Carolina) Marin played a great game under pressure," says India's chief national coach P. Gopichand, in an exclusive interview to Sportstar.

Pullela Gopichand was all praise for his ward P. V. Sindhu. According to the coach, the key to Sindhu's success was her ability to change the game when needed, and her amazing fitness levels.   -  PTI

India’s chief national badminton coach, Pullela Gopichand called his most famous ward and the Rio Games silver medallist, P. V. Sindhu, a sweetheart in terms of giving the right response — both on and off the court. In an exclusive interview to Sportstar from Rio on Saturday, Gopichand also revealed that despite Sindhu's defeat in the women's singles final, he congratulated Carolina Marin while exchanging pleasantries and told the World No. 1 to enjoy what had been a truly fabulous win.

READ: > Pleased with the all-round game I could display, says Sindhu

Question: How was it managing Sindhu?

Answer: It was not just the great game she played out there for the whole week, but the way she reciprocated to some simple things that I asked her to do like handing over the mobile, the iPad and not insisting on having her favourite sweet curd. She did all these things with a smile and not putting up a grim face. These things really helped me focus more on her game.

How has the Rio Games journey been like?

The best part in Rio was that every moment was a pleasure because of the kind of atmosphere here. For us especially, we were all in the same block — including the two physios Kiran and Subodh. They did a terrific job too. So we used to go out for dinner or for a walk together and even the competition arena was pretty close to our room. These things helped us in saving precious time, to plan out much better and stay focussed.

What was the key to Sindhu's silver medal?

Well, I definitely believe the key to the super Sindhu show was her ability to change the game when needed and her amazing fitness levels. She played a notch higher than she normally does. She came up with a brilliant all-round game and was arguably at her best in Rio.

 

What was the mood before the final?

After taking it match by match, we had decided to give off our best with the one last shot at the gold medal. We had nothing to lose. A medal was assured, but still the objective was to finish on a high, fight until the last point. I am glad that Sindhu put up a great show in the final, coming back into the game quite a few times after being down. But we must acknowledge that Marin played a great game under pressure.

How did you prepare for the Olympics?

For me, it has become a habit to re-draw the challenges as I am under scrutiny for every major event like the Commonwealth, Asian and the World Championships besides the Olympics. Every time I felt this could be the last, I had to rethink and rework the whole plan and keep going. That’s it. But I am enjoying every bit of this.

In fact, I started the early morning training schedules at 4.30 just for her and the silver is a result of seven long years of planning. I wish her silver medal would inspire many more in my academy to dream big and really work hard.

After Saina Nehwal left the academy was there any pressure on you to prove a point or two?

I wouldn’t like to look at it that way. The whole objective of setting up the academy and giving scientific training is to produce more and more champions and not be individualistic, though the focus will be more on those fringe players on the verge of breaking into the big league.

I have never thought that way, that I have to prove a point or two after Saina left my academy. So, we never ever thought that we should win a medal to prove something. The whole focus was on giving our best.

What was the big difference for you as a coach in Rio compared to London Olympics?

I think we had more time to prepare. This time around, everything went off well and it has reflected on the mental toughness of Sindhu too in the Games.

How difficult was it for you as a coach to handle the pressure of expectations after India’s dismal performances in some disciplines, with only Sakshi Malik winning a medal (bronze) in wrestling before Sindhu provided the silver lining?

Well, the feeling of not winning a medal was always haunting. One should remember, all those who failed to get going will also feel equally disappointed. So, we were just hoping to win a medal in badminton, and I am glad that Sindhu has become the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in Olympics. What more can I ask for from my trainee in her maiden Olympics after showing such great composure and maturity. She played like a champion.