The Men Behind India’s Badminton Rise

The Men Behind India's Badminton Rise
The Men Behind India’s Badminton Rise

Cricket is the most watched sport in India but the rise of Indian badminton has delighted us, garnering media attention that there is much more left than to cricket. The stupendous success of Men Indian shuttlers from Srikanth Kidambi to B Sai Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap and HS Prannoy on the global stage has brought media attention. But there was one man, Pullela Gopichand, the head coach of the team, who had unwavering faith in them, and still tipped them to be in top form, in just a few week’s time.
It all started with Saina Nehwal winning the bronze medal in the London Olympics 2012. Then came P V Sindhu. She won over the country with her silver medal yesterday. Parupalli Kashyap was the first man to enter the quarterfinals of an Olympic event in 2012. The common factor in all these achievements – Pullela Gopichand. He has single handedly changed the sport of badminton in our country. In a country obsessed by cricket, badminton survived only due to the individual contributions of enthusiasts who supported the game because they loved it.
Gopi has proved what a turnaround a good institution can provide. He not only mobilised funds and created world-class infrastructure but identified and groomed those talents.
Players narrate how he involves himself in training them and improving their technique.
“Sometime I feel bad that in spite being down with cold and fever, he comes to the academy to train Sindhu and other players,” said Sindhu’s father P.V. Ramana, a former volleyball player.
Injuries forced Gopi to go for an early retirement but he decided to done the role of a coach and create a world class infrastructure to fill the vacuum.
The government of Andhra Pradesh allotted five acres of land to Gopichand in Gachibowli to set up an international badminton academy. Surrounded by campuses of several IT majors, it started functioning in 2008.
In March this year, Gopichand opened the second academy in the same area. Known as Sports Authority of India (SAI)-Gopichand Academy, it has nine courts and can accommodate 60 trainees.
The twin academies together have 17 courts and can train 130 players. However, this is not sufficient to meet the huge demand, which picked up during the last five years.
Looking for talent across the country, Gopi set up academies in Gwalior, Vadodara, Tanuka (Andhra Pradesh) and Salem (Tamil Nadu). He also plans to open more including one in Greater Noida.

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