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When Gopi did the unexpected

other Updated: Mar 11, 2011 23:21 IST
Anamika Nandedkar
Anamika Nandedkar
Hindustan Times
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Ten years ago, a shy and humble 28-year-old from Hyderabad snatched the All-England badminton tournament away from a host of Chinese and Danes in Birmingham. Pullela Gopi Chand became the second Indian to win the title, often called the "Wimbledon of badminton". Now India's national coach, Gopi Chand takes us back to the time when this title changed his life, and how he expects to see his star pupil, Saina Nehwal emulate him soon.

Take us back to the day of the final. What was going through your mind before the match?
It was a big tournament for me as it was my first big final. The night before the final I was really happy and excited about the coming day. I really wanted to win the final and it was a great feeling when I finally did. The dinner party that followed with 20-30 of my close friends and players in London was worth remembering.

How was your confidence level throughout the tournament?
There were so many things in terms of recovery and match practice that were lacking. Inspite of that, I managed to get through the day with a victory. I played China's Chen Hong in the final. I would say the matches I played before the final were the toughest. I had a very tough draw, and I was taking things one match at a time. But I was in good form and I was able to beat higher ranked players.

How did this prestigious title change your life?
The title came quite late for me, when I had just 2-3 years of badminton left. I wish it had come earlier, which would have been helpful in terms of playing more tournaments. The cash awards were of great help and saw me though some of my coaching plans. It was good to see people, who usually don't follow badminton, recognise me for my work.

You are now coaching a girl who could be the next Indian to win the All England. What are your expectations from her?
The way she is playing and based on her performance in the previous year, we are looking at the possibility of a new All England champion from India emerging this year only! I hope she does it.