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Pullela Gopichand: Batting for a healthy cause

Pullela Gopichand   | Photo Credit: Nagara Gopal

An early morning flight from Denmark after a bout of congratulatory messages for Srikanth Kidambi's win, Pullela Gopichand feels at home at his Gachibowli academy. Quick in returning to action, the badminton coach and former player now backs the forthcoming ultra marathon (in assocation with NEB Sports Entertaintainment and Physical Literary Days) that will witness the participation of 8000 marathoners from the city. Fitness being an aspect he is concerned about has added more validity to this association.

Gopichand says fitness was an aspect that didn’t play on his mind when he began his career. “I don't think fitness was something which I even thought of. Sports and fun was what encouraged me to play. Only when you play sports on a higher level, you realise the importance of fitness. That's when you start thinking of gymming, endurance, flexibility and all other parameters.”

He finds the attention behind the adequate training for a marathon and the rise of young marathoners across the city very welcoming. He cautions that a marathon is not something that people can decide in the morning and run. “I think everybody can run to a certain level, but there are people who begin challenging such limits. Initially, people begin with 3k, 5k, half marathon, run a full-marathon and then proceed towards an ultra marathon. Marathon is all about pushing limits. With respect to the academy, I feel it's a healthy cause to be associated with.”

The attention that badminton has warranted as a sport in the last couple of years has been overwhelming, Gopichand states. With a series of books, soon-to-release biopics and more registrations at the academy, he adds,“The performance of the players credits that in a lot of ways. I am happy that the game is getting its due recognition. It is needed and it's a healthy trend to see players making a name for themselves and earn popularity among the public.”

While the Padma Bhushan-awardee is a proven taskmaster, he does realise the need for players to disconnect from the game when time permits. “It's about different levels, different people and different cultures and ideas. Given an option, everyone would like to do other things and come back. There are compulsions at times that doesn't let you do that.” At the moment though, the badminton space in terms of the calendar doesn't give him or the players, the luxury or the time that one would expect to. “It's going to be a struggle, but the players love the challenge. I believe they are adjusting.”

Would a packed season mean a blessing or a curse for a player? “I think overly done season isn't very nice. From a fan's perspective, it's great because it lets badminton be in the news all the time.” From the popularity of the sport perspective, it makes a huge impact while from the player’s perspective, it's not so ideal, he adds.

Gopichand's approach to the game as a player and a coach has undergone a cha nge over the years; he feels that’s very necessary for one to become a world-class athelete. “There is a need for change every time, adaptation is the key to learn and unlearn. Nobody can win consistently without making the right changes to his/her game. It needs the coach and the player to be alert to what is required. We have been pretty successful in that aspect and will be in the future too.”

How different would it be to mentor one's own child? “It's a tad early for me to discuss that. They're only 13 and 14 years old. Maybe, I'll answer this question in a few years from now. There's very little that we discuss about the game at home too,” he signs off.

Ultra Marathon

Categories: 50K, 25K, 12.5, 5K

Starts at: Gachibowli Stadium

On: November 5

Registrations at: www.hyderabadultramarathon.com


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 10:27:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/pullela-gopichand-batting-for-a-healthy-cause/article19925002.ece

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