Sindhu: 'Fortunate to have Gopi sir as my coach'

Gopi Chand: 'I always insisted to remember how many in India get a chance to represent India in Olympics. And sportspersons are the only ones who can well and truly reflect the national integrity for they unite the entire country with their stand out performances.'

India's Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu proudly showing her achievement at the public rally in Gachibowli stadium in Hyderabad.   -  Nagara Gopal

India’s star of the moment, P. V. Sindhu, and her mentor and coach, P. Gopi Chand, were back at the venue of all the preparation and planning that had resulted in her silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

While she expressed a sense of achievement, Sindhu was modest when asked about emerging as India’s premier woman shuttler after her latest success.

>GALLERY: Sindhu gets a grand welcome

“I just believed in myself though I was not expecting a final appearance in Rio before I left. Now I hope to keep the momentum going, keep winning more titles and, hopefully, win an Olympic gold in future,” Sindhu said, stating that she was glad to have lived up to the nation’s expectations.

She also acknowledged Gopi’s role in her success in Rio and in her overall development as a player. “It was all because of a lot of hard work. Gopi sir has been constantly changing my game-plans and, more importantly, we trained accordingly,” she said. “I am fortunate to have Gopi sir as my coach. He has been such a motivating factor right through since I joined the Gopi Academy."

Sindhu said the magnitude of her achievement was yet to sink in, and added that she had no definite plans of when she was going to resume regular training.

READ: >Hyderabad welcomes Sindhu in style

When Gopi, who is also chief National coach, was asked if Sindhu could now be called a complete player, he replied that his protégé was not quite there yet. “I am still waiting for that to happen very soon. She is young (21) and she has probably another 10 years, given her amazing attitude and work-ethic,” he said.

On K. Srikanth, who had made the quarterfinals in Rio, Gopi said the World No. 11 had given it his best shot before losing to Lin Dan in a closely fought quarterfinal. “So, when we look back, it is not just about whether you have won a medal or not. What is important is whether you have put your heart and soul into it,” he said.

“At the Olympics what matters is not just the kind of game you have but whether you have a heart big enough to face the challenges on the given day.”

Gopi revealed that one of his methods of keeping Srikanth and Sindhu motivated in Rio was to get them to sing the National Anthem before every match. “Honestly, I feel greatly motivated by this. How many get the chance to represent India at the Olympics?” he said.

However, amidst the euphoria, there were gentle reminders of future goals too. In their moment of glory, Gopi drew attention to the Indian athletes who had fallen short of the medal bracket.

“We [don’t seem to do enough] to recognise the achievements of all those who qualified for the Olympics,” he said. “The fact that India has sent more than 100 athletes for Rio is a huge thing for us, given all the difficulties the athletes face and their problems.

“If someone wins a medal he or she, quite rightly, becomes the nation’s pride instantly. But, given the demanding qualifying standards, it is imperative to suitably reward all those athletes who have also sacrificed so much to make it to Olympics. This will help them think and dream big for the next edition."

Calling for more support at the developmental level, Gopi said: “As far as my federation (the Badminton Association of India) is concerned, we got fabulous support. Even the Sports Authority of India and the Government of India have been really encouraging.

“But again, funding at grass roots is the key element if we want to produce more champions.”

While he will be satisfied at a shuttler improving on the Indian performance at the previous edition — where Saina Nehwal won bronze — Gopi will now reset his goals. A few girls in his Academy have already expressed their desire go one better than even Sindhu at the 2020 Olympics.