AT THE Panjab University Badminton Hall, as India’s chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand made his way to the eight zonal teams, the 50-odd players gathered around Gopichand and sought photographs with the former All England Open Championship winner.
Gopichand happily obliged and as he played the opening shot of the Senior Nationals Championships, the 42-year-old coach was quick to remind the players about giving their best in the championships.
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“Playing in the nationals is always one of the important steps in a player’s career, particularly for the young talent in the country. Of course because of the Olympics and the international events, we do not have the top players in this tournament, but there are a good number of quality players. The arrangements have also been fantastic and good court conditions will ensure a high-level of badminton,” said the former player, who won the All England Open Championships in 2001, the only other Indian to win the prestigious event after Prakash Padukone.
The last few weeks have seen Gopichand monitor closely the progress of players like Saina Nehwal, Kadambi Srikanth, P V Sindhu and others who took part in the Super Series events.
The top-ranked Indian players will now play in Super Series events like the Malaysian Open, Singapore Open and China masters, after which the qualification process for Rio Olympics will end.
“I think that three weeks from now, we are done with the qualification process. Most of the players have played well but they have been quite inconsistent due to the large number of tournaments. They have not been able to maintain fitness and this also happens with other countries. It is not a cause of concern but we need improvement,” said the chief coach. Gopichand added that the key for the players will be to peak at the right time for Rio.
“We have played well and won medals at the Asian games, the Thomas and Uber Cup and Asian championships in both men and women categories.
Kadambi Srikanth is somebody who is in top ten and has got many years ahead in terms of talent and experience will help him. I think the key for performing well in the Rio Olympics will be for the players to peak at the right time,” added the coach.
On coaching, Gopichand said it has been a challenging experience.
“It has been challenging and exciting role and it comes with a lot of responsibility. BAI and SAI have been very encouraging, that has helped and the results are showing. We have lot of things to do and I am sure players will perform well also. I do not have any plans yet to open an academy here,” said the former player who also runs the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad.