Badminton Controversies notwithstanding, Pullela Gopichand continues to plan for more success stories at his Academy
In 2004, when the former All England champion Pullela Gopichand put in place plans for his academy, thanks to the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh giving the facilities at Swarna Bharathi Indoor Stadium (Gachibowli), he had a bigger dream of putting India in the top performers’ list at the highest level.
Once his Academy started functioning in 2008 at Gachibowli, the goal was to produce an Olympic medallist in 10 years of time. Having achieved that wonderful feat thanks to Saina Nehwal, whom he believes to be the flag-bearer, winning 2012 London Olympic bronze, Gopi now has every reason to look back with pride and satisfaction.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. There is a tinge of concern at some of the off-court developments which questioned his integrity both as a coach and as one in-charge of the Academy. There is a conscious effort to remind that he became the coach long after the Academy was started. The questions are always debatable with each side trying to convince that the other one is wrong.
Gopi’s Academy continues to be focal point with Hyderabad emerging as the badminton capital of India. Except for one or two national players, every international player now is part of the Academy’s professional training programme which starts at 4. 30 am sharp everyday, led by Gopi himself.
And, it is the only badminton training centre which has never shut down even for a session for want of power failure, because it is never given for any functions or for want of lack of shuttles.
“Yes. I take pride in mentioning that none of the players here know the struggle we face in getting them,” says Gopi, who has stopped taking new trainees in any age group for almost three years now. “Right now, I am struggling to allot time even for the national and international players on the eight courts available now in the Academy. The big names need at least three hours of training and then for me, the focus is also on building up a new assembly line of young talent with an eye on the future,” explains Gopi.
What are his targets next? “Honestly, Saina has been outstanding. Sindhu’s transformation has been phenomenal. Kashyap continues to be the best medal hope in men’s singles even for the next Olympics. The focus will be to see that India has two entries in men’s and women’s singles, one each in doubles events in the 2016 Olympics. The best part is they are all young and still have a minimum of five years of badminton. I just wish the young talent around will put in the desired hard work and show the great commitment levels over the next few years to give Indian badminton a new identity,” he explains.