It was 2004 when Pullela Gopichand took his first steps towards coaching. It’s 2009 and his name has been nominated for Dronacharya Award -- the highest sporting award for a coach.
Gopi said he never worked towards getting an award. “It wasn’t like I did everything in my career to receive awards. I always dreamt of clinching an All-England title, which I eventually did,” said India’s national badminton coach.
“I was suffering from a knee problem back then and realised I could maybe extend my experience and services to those who wanted to take up badminton seriously.”
“Coaching comes naturally to me. I was happy when I was made the national coach,” he said.
After coaching for five years now, Gopi thinks the ideal scenario for the growth of the sport is very different from the present state of things.
“I am very happy that the world championship is happening. But in the long run, I feel we need a proper system to popularise the sport in the country. For me, you bring a thousand players under one roof, rope in former players and train the enthusiasts which doesn’t seem to happening right now.”
On the phenomenal rise of Saina Nehwal, Gopi said: “For a 19-year-old to achieve so much is really unimaginable, but she had done it. It’s difficult to find a player with the same qualities as Saina’s.”