India have got one medal in badminton from each of the last two Olympics, but current national coach Pullela Gopichand is confident that the Tokyo Games next year will witness a better haul…write Ajeyo Basu
Saina Nehwal had bagged a bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London while P.V. Sindhu got a silver in the women’s singles final at the 2016 Games.
Gopichand asserted that he expects at least one of his wards to win gold in Tokyo while expecting better results from the men’s squad.
“The Tokyo Games will be a big event and every Olympics we have done better than the previous one. I hope this time we have a better medal than previous years and more medals than we have managed previously,” Gopichand told IANS.
“Among the boys, never before we have had players with such high rankings. I believe that with this current batch of boys, we have a good chance for a medal in Tokyo and in the future,” he added.
The start of the season was definitely a bright one for Saina as she won the Indonesia Masters and Gopichand was confident that it will boost her confidence for the challenges that lie in wait later in the year.
“I think it is a good start to the season. When I look at the results for Saina it is definitely a good thing. She was injured prior to the tournament. So it was good to win the the way she did,” he said.
Sindhu, on the other hand, has been struggling with her form recently after a good run last year. Sindhu created history in 2018 by becoming the first Indian to win the season ending BWF World Tour Finals. She also became the first Indian to take silver at the Asian Games.
Gopichand asserted that Sindhu’s recent dip in form is due to too much workload and is confident of yet another successful run in 2019.
“She had a long season last year. She did not have a break because we finished off the season because of the World Final which she won followed immediately by the PBL and then she hardly got a week’s break before playing at the Indonesia Masters,” the coach said.
“So I am not too much concerned. I see her as somebody who has had a good year in 2018 and a fantastic season ending tournament and I am happy with her form,” he added.
With reigning Olympic and world champion Carolina Marin and current Asian champion Tai Tzu-ying scheduled to miss the prestigious All England Championships next month, Saina and Sindhu are expected to face an easier run to the podium.
Gopichand however, cautioned that his wards will be greatly mistaken if they feel that the task has become any easier.
“I think the fact that Carolina and Tai won’t be there could be an advantage. Those two are very good players. But I think there is a lot of competition other than them. So I don’t think that it makes Saina and Sindhu’s job any easier,” he warned.
The former All England champion admitted that apart from the top stars, Indian badminton has failed to produce a decent second string, adding that the domestic structure needs a big overhaul, specially at the junior level.
“A lot needs to be done at the junior level. We need more structured programmes. That is the need of the hour. There are a lot of areas with regard to coaches development and structuring of tournament schedule in terms of planning there are a lot of things which we need to do in order to see that the growth of players and overall standards becomes more consistent,” Gopichand remarked.
The former India star, who established the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation a couple of years ago, also thanked Kotak CSR for providing crucial support, adding that more such initiatives are needed in Indian sports.
“The objective of Pullela Gopichand Badminton Foundation is to train, nurture and guide young talent with the purpose of developing international badminton champions. For India to consistently produce world class athletes and be counted among the great sporting nations, access to quality infrastructure, training and coaching facilities is a must. Under Kotak’s CSR Programme in Sports, we will work together towards our shared vision of developing outstanding athletes and coaches,” Gopichand opined.
“Further, Kotak will support the coach certification and fellowship programmes for coaches and players. Under the coach certification programme, the academy will impart training and award certification to former sportspersons to expand the reach of badminton training across India. The fellowship programmes will largely cater to economically backward coaches and players, within and outside the academy, who have the potential to make it big.”