Always knew there was a world champion in PV Sindhu: Pullela Gopichand
When the Gopichand Badminton Academy was set up, Sindhu was one of its most committed members, winning junior-level tournaments and making an impact at the international level.Updated: Aug 27, 2019 23:41 IST
PV Sindhu could easily have followed in her parents’ footsteps and become a volleyball player. Daughter of Arjuna awardee PV Ramana, who was a member of the bronze medal-winning team at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul, Sindhu had the genes to become an accomplished volleyball player.
But she was inspired by Pullela Gopichand, who in 2001 became only the second Indian to win the All England title. As a 10-year-old, two years after picking up the badminton racquet, she joined Gopichand, who had just started coaching a few youngsters in 2005 when he was in the twilight of his playing career.
Three years later, in 2008, when the Gopichand Badminton Academy was set up, Sindhu was one of its most committed members, winning junior-level tournaments and making an impact at the international level.
The partnership touched a new high when Sindhu won the World Championships on Sunday, with Gopi sitting courtside, smiling. Gopi, who is Sindhu’s coach, confidante and friend, always believed that there was a world champion in her and guided the Hyderabadi to that destination.
“For me, the journey of 14-15 years has been fantastic. From the beginning I knew we had a champion. But to actually see her tread the path is something, which is really amazing,” Gopichand said.
“She has been a great athlete. To win five medals at the World Championships (in six attempts) shows her consistency, which is phenomenal. I feel very happy and proud about it.”
With this gold, the newly-crowned champion became only the fourth athlete (after three Chinese) in women’s singles history to win all three medals at least once.
“This is a great victory for Indian badminton. Having won bronze and silver consistently, it is great to finish this loop and tick off this box and have a world champion from the country,” said Gopi.
“Not only is the victory so important from a medal perspective but also the way she played was fantastic, something I really loved.
“The complete domination that she was able to do and the array of strokes and the strategy she was able to execute, it was really phenomenal.”
Sindhu was not just dominant, she was destructive as well. Barring one contest, she won all her matches in straight games and none of her encounters lasted more than 42 minutes. However, that one match turned out to be the turning point.
The most consistent player in the last two years, someone who has not dropped out of the top-3 since December 2016, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying was to be Sindhu’s ultimate test.
Going into the match with a 10-4 record, the odds were stacked heavily in favour of the Asian Games champion. However, after going down in the first game, Sindhu brought out her aggressive best to beat Tai Tzu and advance to the semi-final. “The quarter-final against Tai Tzu Ying was close, these are matches where you need a bit of luck and Sindhu, not only did she have luck, she powered it in the end with some really good smashes,” said Gopichand.
“That was the turning point, and with Tai Tzu out, (world No 1 Akane) Yamaguchi out, the only two people who had the weapons to beat Sindhu, it was a good chance for her to win. She needed to keep it simple and that is what she did in the final.”
The chief national coach has, time and again, said his hands are full with so much of international travel with the team and his engagement with the academy. He is also part of several sports committees working for the development of talent in the country.
In such a scenario, Kim Ji Hyun’s entry into the national setup has come as a boon for Gopi. The South Korean coach, who was attending Sindhu’s matches courtside with Gopi, joined the camp in April. Now Sindhu trains with Kim while Gopi plans her schedule.
“It is great to have the support of the coaches. I have always said that we need more coaches. Park (Tae Sang, the men’s singles coach) and Kim being here is really helpful. To be able to spend dedicated time with an athlete is important and it is great to have that support of these coaches,” said Gopi.
“Kim has been spending a couple of hours in the morning and evening on a one-to-one basis, which actually helps Sindhu work on the skill aspect, which is very important.”