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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Pullela Gopichand: From champion to ace mentor

This top flight sportsman who excelled in badminton, became the second Indian to win the All-England Open Championship and then turned into a world-class coach. He trained top shuttlers like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Srikanth Kidambi.

inspiring-lives Updated: Nov 19, 2019 16:13 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pullela Gopichand after winning the junior national championship at 18, realised the importance of professional training.
Pullela Gopichand after winning the junior national championship at 18, realised the importance of professional training.(ILLUSTRATION: MOHIT SUNEJA)
         

Born on November 16, 1973, in Nagandla, in the Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh to Pullela Subash Chandra and Subbaravamma, Gopichand evinced interest in sports from a young age. He completed school from St. Paul’s High School, Hyderabad and earned a graduate degree in public administration from AV College. It was during the early 1990s that Gopichand started showing his expertise as a badminton player. First, he was picked to join his state’s junior squad. Then he became the captain of India’s combined universities badminton squad. Success on the badminton court encouraged Gopichand to consider taking up badminton as a profession. But he was also gearing up for engineering exams simultaneously. Having failed to do very well in the exam, he made up his mind to concentrate on sports.

Career

After winning the junior national championship at 18, he realised the importance of professional training. He moved to Bangalore where he joined the badminton academy run by Prakash Padukone, the winner of the All England Open champion in 1980. Thanks to the training stint at Padukone’s academy, Gopinath won his first National Championship as well as a gold medal in the Saarc badminton tournament in 1996 and defended the latter crown even in the next year, capping a remarkable turnaround after five years of hardship that he faced due to his injuries and the resultant surgeries.

From 1997 to 1999, he played professionally in Germany and represented India thrice in the Thomas Cup team championship. Gopinath’s good form enabled him to win two gold medals and one silver medal in the national games held at Imphal in 1998. During the same year, he won silver in the 1998 Commonwealth Games’ team contest and a bronze in the Men’s Singles.

Gopichand achieved his career peak in 2001 when he won the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham, beating then world No.1 Peter Gade in the semi-final and proceeded to defeat China’s Chen Hong 15–12, 15–6 in the final. In doing so, he became the second Indian to achieve the feat after his mentor Prakash Padukone, who won it in 1980.

Major Works

He founded the Gopichand Badminton Academy to impart world-class training to emerging Indian players. Trainees at the academy who went on to achieve international fame include Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, PV Sindhu and Arundhati Pantawane.

Personal Life & Legacy

Gopichand married his fellow shuttler PVV Lakshmi on June 5, 2002. The couple has two children and their daughter is a budding badminton player.

Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy

Founded in 2001, the academy trained several star badminton players. It is India’s 3rd High Performance Center. The academy has highly reputed National and International coaches. The state-of-art facility comprises of eight International Standard Badminton Courts, two wooden courts and access to gym, swimming pool and other facilities. The admissions are done strictly through trials. The monthly fee begins at ₹ 2000. Preference is always given to the national-ranked players.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. Aged 10, Gopichand, accompanied by his mother Pullela Subbaravamma walked for miles to receive coaching in badminton. His parents wanted him to pursue engineering as a career option but it was at the urging of his elder brother that he considered to play badminton professionally. Initially, he played only for recreation but eventually he started participating and winning several competitions.

2. His dream to open a world-class badminton academy was realised in 2008 when he opened the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy. Modelled after the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, it provides physiotherapy, food and diet programmes, with training. It was the venue for the 2009 Indian Open and also was the training venue for 2009 BWF World Championships.

3. Currently, Gopichand is the Chief National Coach. He won the Arjuna Award in 1999, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001 and the Padma Shri in 2005 and the Padma Bhushan in 2014.

SOURCES: Thefamouspeople.org, Wikipedia, Britannica