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WINNERS ALL Gopi Chand with winners in the Yonex-SAAP tournament
WINNERS ALL Gopi Chand with winners in the Yonex-SAAP tournament

The recently held Yonex-SAAP tournament gave a big boost to the game

The whole idea is to give trainees across the State, a platform to make an honest, self-assessment and then duly plan out their future in the sport It was player power again! The big names of Andhra badminton, and for that matter, some of the more famous names from the National circuit like 2001 All England champion Pullela Gopi Chand, Manoj Kumar and Vijayraghavan got together to organise the Yonex-SAAP State Open junior and sub-juniors badminton tournament at the Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium recently.Carrying on from where they began three years ago, these shuttlers who gave their best during their hey days, took good measures to ensure the success of the event. This was evident by the crowded venue on the opening day, as the event attracted a record 500-plus entries. "It was like a festival with so many parents and well-wishers cheering their wards," says Manoj Kumar, former national doubles champion. Effectively, the AP Badminton Players Association has proved that if one has the will there is the way. With Yonex, the most famous brand name in badminton chipping in with substantial help and the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh doing what is expected from it, the APBPA never really had any problems. There was no better sight than to see the kids go out there and compete against all odds. "It is not the question of winning or losing but the competitive spirit that is more important," points out Gopi Chand. The fact that the Yonex-SAAP event has assumed the desired regularity on the AP badminton calendar should only do the sport a world of good. And no better way than to see champions like Gopi taking personal interest in ensuring that the competitors were not inconvenienced in any way.With the players themselves lining up to officiate and do the scoring, it certainly eased the burden of Gopi and his team. More significantly, badminton has returned to its place of destiny on the map at the Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium. This was the venue which saw Gopi finetune his technique before emerging as the All England champion. Also, it was here that the now-familiar Dronacharya S.M. Arif coached for almost three decades during which period he produced more than 150 national champions in different categories. But what is the cumulative effect of this essentially players' event? "The whole idea is to give trainees across the State, a platform to make an honest, self-assessment and then duly plan out their future in the sport," says Gopi. That was obvious from the consistency of N. Sikki Reddy, who bagged a triple in this edition, who herself was a 'find' of the first edition. "She has got lots of talent but has to be groomed in the proper way for better results," points out Gopi. There are many talented youngsters especially from the Nandyal Badminton Academy. They are completely sponsored by Nandi Pipes and headed by former State player Venkat. A simple proof that the sport is no more confined to the stadia in the cities.In a way, the event reflected the need of the association to be more pragmatic in their planning. It is not just international events that matter and if there has to be a long assembly line of reserve talent, events like the Yonex-SAAP championships should be conducted across the State. Gopi, who is into full-time coaching now as part of his grand plans to set up an international academy in Gachibowli, has set a wonderful precedence. V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

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