Coach Pullela Gopihand is set to realise the dream of making his shuttlers bring home an Olympic medal
Saina Nehwal is widely believed to be the best medal prospect in badminton from India in this week’s London Olympics. The focus has been on the likes of her and Gutta Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa in women’s doubles. But, there is one gentleman, Pullela Gopichand, who is going all out with the Indian team at his Academy to put in place all the plans as part of his effort to answer the prayers of millions of fans in India for an Olympic medal.
“For once we go into the Olympics with a realistic chance of winning a medal. This is arguably the strongest ever Indian team for the Games so far,” starts off a confident Gopi after another strenuous training schedule with the London-bound shuttlers.
“We have been working really hard to meet all the requirements that are expected to be there in London. In fact, each member of the team is alert to what is expected and has been training with that in mind with commitment,” feels the chief coach of Indian badminton team.
Is there anything which scares him on the eve of Olympics? “I don’t say I am worried about a particular aspect. But, yes, I will definitely be looking for a good start and a consistent start,” Gopi says. He also says that since it is essentially a league-cum-knock out format, Indian shuttlers have a better chance as there is always a chance to come back strongly despite an off-day.
“The women’s singles should be a pretty close affair among the Chinese trio of Wang Yihan, Wang Xin, Li Xuerui and Saina, Tine, Ratchanok along with a couple of Chinese Taipei girls. All are definitely well prepared,” he explains.
Being more specific about Saina’s chances, the former All England champion insists that she is in the best frame of mind. “There is no doubt that this is the best opportunity for her to win a medal. But, again you need a little bit of luck at this level,” he says.
Referring to men’s singles, Gopi says reigning world champion Lin Dan stands apart from the rest of the crowd.
“I remember beating him 15-4, 15-2 in the 2003 Singapore Open, when his net game was not that good. But, look at the way he has adapted to the modern badminton. Clearly, he has evolved with the game. Well, I played with all those who in the reckoning including Peter Gade, Taufiq Hidayat. What makes them so special is the wonderful manner they have changed their style and technique to the needs of the day,” he explains.
From the Indian perspective, Gopi says if Parupalli Kashyap plays as well as he did in the Asian circuit recently, he definitely has a chance to win a medal. In the women’s doubles, Gopi reminds us that Gutta Jwala and Ashwani Ponnappa are no pushovers. “They are a formidable combinationand on their day they can beat anyone. It is again a question of finding the rhythm and sustaining it right through the game. Same is the case with mixed doubles duo of Jwala and V. Diju,” he points out.
The champion shuttler of yesteryear signs off saying that there cannot be a better feeling than being the coach for an Indian who wins an Olympic medal. “What more can you ask for? It should be the ultimate feeling of achievement. I am just eagerly waiting for that great moment,” he concludes.