Gopichand’s claim that he started badminton in region is nonsense; Jwala bursts like volcano

The recent statement by renowned badminton coach P. Gopichand that Hyderabad, when he was playing in the 1980s, was at the bottom tier of badminton even at South Indian level and there were no serious players at national level has caused a furore. “We lacked the enthusiasm in young players and coaches. When I won the All England title I felt that if a player like me could win I could share my learning and create a hub to coach many champions,” the national team manager added in the statement, published in a leading daily newspaper.

The clearest criticism came from Olympian Gutta Jwala, who lashed out and said it was all lies. She said on Twitter that she started her career in 1994 and until then all senior players from Hyderabad were in the national team. “He seems to have forgotten his contemporaries who defeated him in the 1990s such as Manoj Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Vijayaraghavan and others trained under SM Arif,” she wrote.

Former national number one ranking leader Manoj Kumar pointed out that he and other Hyderabad players started winning titles at the national level in the mid-1980s. Another player’s parent, who spoke to siasat.com on condition of anonymity, said no coach should take all the credit for raising champions alone. “It is primarily the effort of the parents and the children involved that ultimately produces a champion. The trainer only gives the finishing touches. It is the parents who have to spend huge sums of money to buy equipment for their stations, make sacrifices in their careers, motivate and support them. Also, children sacrifice their education, which is not recognized in the media,” he said. He asked: “How many of us know the managerial name of a top player in the world, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Leander Paes or Virat Kohli? Then why so much praise for Gopichand? Who was Gopi’s coach? How many are aware of the generosity of Mr. Kailash Charan who has sponsored many players who train at LB Stadium under the direction of SM Arif?

“Parents sacrifice a lot of time, money and effort. And the child’s enthusiasm also makes a big difference. What if the kid says I’m fed up! I no longer want to practice this sport. Then can any trainer turn the kid into a champion? Coaches quickly reap all the credit when a player excels, overriding all other factors. Gopichand is no different in that regard,” he lamented.

There is some truth to the words of these parents. Because it is well known that many players like Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu received immense support and encouragement from their parents during their formative years. It is known that Sindhu’s father, PV Ramana, himself a former international volleyball player, Asian Games medalist and Arjuna laureate, took her to training sessions every morning and evening. She initially began her training under Nani Prasad at the IAS Officers’ Courts in Begumpet before moving to the IRISET Courts where she came under the tutelage of Mahboob Ali, Mehmood Ali and Karpan. The next person she trained was the legendary SM Arif and Bhaskar Babu. So she was helped by several good coaches in her early years. Ramana has pointed out that these coaches showed great commitment and were great motivators. Since Sindhu’s father was a sports officer on the South Central Railway, he had access to the railway grounds and she ran 10 to 12 laps of the 400 meter course. All this helped her to develop her endurance. From a young age, Sindhu became involved in her sport and was determined to succeed. It was that burning desire and passion that eventually propelled her to the top.

Also, her father understood the importance of player and opponent analysis. Since Sindhu never had video analysis as part of player development, he used his own knowledge to his great advantage. He would analyze their shots, footwork, wrists and posture to make the necessary changes with the help of Railways players on the Railway site. He still does this today at Suchitra Academy. He also understood the importance of fitness and moved Sindhu’s fitness, recreation and sports science classes to Suchitra Academy after the Rio 2016 Olympics. This helped her win two silver medals and one gold medal at the World Championships, gold at the World Tour Finals, and the Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo. Since she trained with different foreign coaches with different styles, the strength and conditioning units had to be adjusted accordingly. So when parents complain about coaches demanding too much credit, he’s absolutely right. There are so many factors that go into making a champion even before the final trainers take charge.

But there are a few more points worth noting. There are some gray areas when it comes to funding. According to the person, funds are released by the government through the Sports Authority of India and organizations like Khelo India, TOPS etc. which are intended to reach the players in a transparent manner. Another parent whose community is part of Khelo India said that they are unaware of the program benefits to which players are entitled and they are not told. These perks should be prominently placed on an academy bulletin board and communicated to players via email. So there are clearly gray areas of functioning that need to be addressed. Complacency with the achievements of Hyderabad players can easily lead to a rapid decline and put an end to all the glory that Hyderabad and India have achieved in the game of badminton in recent years.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a veteran journalist who writes on sports and various other subjects.

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