Former All-England champion and chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand was at his candid best on Saturday.
Addressing the ‘Hindustan Shikhar Samagam’ here, Gopichand said his dream of producing an Olympic medallist would not have been possible had he not been denied financial support by a corporate house after his All-England win in 2001.
“I was kept waiting outside their office in Mumbai for three days. Later, I was told that badminton could not become an international sport in India. Those words hurt me and I decided to move ahead on my own,” he recalled.
“I had no option but to build the academy on my own. I discussed it with my family and it took us five minutes to decide on mortgaging our property. We wanted to sell it initially but we thought mortgage would be better. We took the step the next morning,” said Gopichand.
“I have seen many obstacles during my training days. There were no proper courts, lights and gym. After winning the All-England title, I wanted to set up an academy where a player could get all the facilities under one roof,” he said.
The five-time national champion said his academy was half ready when he started approaching financers. “Wearing my blazer (bearing India colours) I knocked on a lot of doors but nobody, save one, came forward. Today, I feel proud of my family as they stood behind me and owe them all my success,” he said.
He refused to comment on Saina Nehwal’s injury, but said the former Olympic bronze medallist was a fighter. “Comparison between Saina and Sindhu is not right. The two have different styles of playing and as a coach I would love to see them win,” said Gopi.