A winning feeling

Jun 25th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Delhiwaalah, Newsmakers

Pullela Gopi Chand’s badminton academy is a training ground for future champions, writes V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM 

Dreaming big Saina Nehwal Photo: afp

No one was happier than former All England champion Pullela Gopi Chand after his most famous ward, Saina Nehwal, scripted a sensational piece of history, in Jakarta last Sunday, by winning the Indonesian Open Super Series championship – becomin g the first-ever Indian woman badminton player to win a Super Series title.

A performance which Gopi feels is on par with his own given the intensity of the competition .But more importantly, Gopi believes this could give a major boost to the other youngsters slogging it out at his world-class Gopi Chand-Nimmagadda Badminton Academy in Gachibowli.

The chief national coach sees a sudden surge of confidence amongst the trainees in the Academy. “Suddenly everyone is talking that they can too dream big, even though they are still way behind to emulate Saina’s feats,” he remarked while monitoring the training sessions. But the point, he says is that by dreaming big, these youngsters are virtually setting a foundation for a very bright future. “Unless you dream, you can’t dare to achieve and to realize that you have to put in lots of hard work,” feels Gopi.

It is not just watching someone like Saina train which can have a major impact on the budding champions but also the way she trains. The young trainees watching Gopi train pick up invaluable inputs.

Gopi is now banking on the likes of Sikki Reddy, who lost to Saina in the Commonwealth Youth Games final in Pune last year, and P. V. Sindhu, daughter of Arjuna Awardee and ex-international volleyballplayer P. V. Ramana to follow in the footsteps of Saina. “They have the talent and have already started winning titles at different levels. All they need is some fine-tuning and self-belief, ” feels Gopi.

Former national player Manoj Kumar makes an interesting observation. “When we were playing, our coach Arif Sir had to literally beg for shuttles to train us. Fortunately, the trainees now face no such hurdles for they are under someone who has the wherewithal to ensure that the kids focus only on training,” he stresses.

There is the another big plus point in Gopi’s favour in terms of coaching. Having played the game at the highest level and having come across coaches of different strengths and expertise, he knows the job inside out and better than many. And his excellent relations with most of the Asian national federations help his players . It may not be out of place to recall here that even Saina benefited from a two-month training-cum-exposure stint last year in the Asian circuit which saw a dramatic change in her game.

“Yes, we feel more comfortable training under Gopi Anna. The way he makes us comfortable right through and so affectionately and yet convincingly puts his views across for our own good is something which we really enjoy,” says Sindhu, already termed as one of the next big hopes of women’s badminton from the City.

With the trainees not made to run around for anything and confined to the indoors of the magnificent Academy, all that they have to focus on is training. Even, Sikki Reddy is a much improved player and more confident in taking on bigger names in the league. “Definitely, the CYG final appearance gave me immense confidence ,” she says.

Both Sindhu and Sikki are on cloud nine at Saina’s achievement. “She is our favourite player for obvious reasons and we are all waiting for her to return to celebrate her victory in a big way and in the process pick up a few new tricks in the art of winning,” they remarked.

The intense activity at Gopi Chand Academy is truly representative of the emergence of Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad in particular as a major force in badminton. The presence of Saina, emerging stars like P. Kashyap and R.M.V. Guru Sai Dutt in the men’s division and with Chetan Anand and Gutta Jwala often dropping in the training sessions are made livelier.

If everything goes as per plan, Gopi might well end up producing a few more Saina Nehwals.

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