Pullela Gopichand hopeful of best-ever Olympics in Tokyo

Pullela Gopichand, Badminton, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal
National Badminton Coach Pullela Gopichand has been instrumental in guiding Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu to Olympic medals. File Photo: PTI

Former India shuttler and national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Friday (December 3) said he’s hopeful of a best-ever Olympics outing in Tokyo despite top players, including reigning world champion PV Sindhu not having the best of times.

“We have had some good performances in the last couple of Olympics. This time we will go into the Olympics with a world champion in our team (Sindhu), and hopefully, with some good preparations, we can come back with better performances than what we have had in the previous Games,” said Gopichand.

Sindhu, who is currently ranked 15 in the world, became a women’s singles world champion having clinched the title by beating Nozomi Okuhara of Japan at Basel, Switzerland in August last year.

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Gopichand, who has produced two Olympic medallists — Saina Nehwal (bronze in 2012) and Sindhu (silver in 2016) — lauded the Government of India’s Khelo India Youth Games event, saying the initiative provides great exposure to young athletes of the country.

“An event like Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) which has all sports together gives a great exposure to athletes. Its something I am very happy about. And in general, the Khelo India programme, whether it’s the scholarships or the accredited academies, helps in portraying a positive picture for sport,” he said.

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The 46-year-old, who won the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham in 2001, said the experience of competing in KIYG will help young shuttlers immensely.

“I’ve been very lucky to watch the Delhi and Pune (Khelo India) Games. From a Khelo India Games perspective, I think what the Government of India is doing is very very impressive. It’s very nice for young athletes to get a chance to perform under top international conditions,” Gopichand said.

“This experience will definitely help the youth in a big way. From an overall sporting culture perspective, I think this is unique.”

Talking about the attributes which he looks at while spotting talent, Gopichand said: “Badminton is a sport which is very physical, but also very skill-based. For us, mental attitude and physical attributes play a very important role.

“When we look at young players, we look at their potential to play at the highest level coupled with the mental strength which is very important to perform at the highest level.”

The third edition of the competition will be held in Guwahati from January 10 to 22.

(With inputs from agencies)

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