Cool coach took a stroll around running track as his trainees clashed for CWG women’s singles title.
Hyderabad: The badminton bunch is back from the Common-wealth Games, and is beaming! Having produced their best ever CWG show with the historic team gold, gold and silver in women’s singles, silvers in men’s singles and men’s doubles and a bronze in women’s doubles, the shuttlers were all smiles at their training ground — the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy here on Tuesday.
Gopi soaked in the success. “This victory is a tribute to the team. Each one of them has given their 100 per cent and contributed to a great extent. Winning the team gold was the highlight and it started with the first match — the mixed doubles win by Rankireddy Sathwiksai Raj and Ashwini Ponnappa (over Olympic silver medallists from Malaysia) set it up for others. It was phenomenal,” the coach said.
“When Saina (Nehwal) and (P.V.) Sindhu reached the final, I was the most satisfied person for it assured another gold and silver for India. Srikanth Kidambi’s silver in the men’s singles too is something to remember, also special is the men’s doubles silver by Satwik and Chirag Shetty. Ashwini (Ponnappa) and Sikki (Reddy) too did very well to get the women’s doubles bronze. Overall, it has been very satisfying. I thank the support staff, physios and everyone involved,” Gopi added.
However, with two of his brightest wards contesting the women’s singles final, Gopi could not take the coach’s seat courtside. In fact, he took a stroll while Saina and Sindhu slugged it out. “Keeping off the final was the easiest thing to do. I had no work and got some time to rest,” he joked.
“Myself and our physio Johnson went out to see the running track outside the stadium and maybe watched only the last five points of the match on TV. I will watch that final later for academic interest,” he added.
Gopi saw the positive side of Saina-Sindhu contests. “As a sport we might be individual in nature but there’s a lot of benefit in practising and working together. Intense rivalries help in bettering each other. Each of the players have a rivalry going on but all of them deal with it in a healthy manner,” Gopi explained.
Saina said she was confident going into the final against Sindhu. “I backed myself, I’m sure Sindhu too would have had similar thoughts,” she said. The strategy? “There was none,” she quipped, before chuckling “I think I am the only girl who goes into a match with no strategy.”
However, “it was challenging to play the final against someone with whom you train everyday and one who knows your game from close. On match eve, when I told Kashyap (fellow shuttler and friend) that I wanted to give my best and not think too much about the result, he said ‘there could be another better option — of winning it.’ These are small things but such talk matters a lot to us players,” Saina said.
Sindhu saw the silver lining. “It was an intense match but with two Indians contesting, it was a proud moment. Yes, only one player can win so giving your best is very important,” she said.
Ashwini’s sapping Saturday
The penultimate day of the Games was pretty rough for doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa, who had to play four gruelling matches before pouching a bronze medal — in the women’s doubles with Sikki Reddy. “I did not expect to play those many matches in a day. I was gunning to win our mixed and women’s doubles semi-finals but we lost both.
That’s when I realised my day wasn’t over and that there were two more matches (to decide the bronze) to be played. Thankfully, Gopi sir helped me get back on the court with words like the bronze too is a medal at the end of the day. Physio Johnson also helped me tirelessly. He was there at the stadium from morning to ensure my body was okay,” Ashwini said.
“In doubles we do rely on our partners and both Sikki and Satwik have been huge support,” she added.
Coach Gopi had earlier said: “This tournament belongs to Ashwini.”
I backed myself to win the women’s singles final, I’m sure Sindhu too would have had similar thoughts. There was no strategy involved though — I think I am the only girl who goes into a match without strategy. However, it was challenging to play the final against someone with whom you train every day and one who knows your game from close.
— Saina nehwal
Gopi and his rising wards
With the top three players from his academy — Saina, Srikanth and Sindhu — rising over his best world ranking of 5, coach Pullela Gopichand is thrilled.
“When Saina climbed to no. 5 in the world, I remember telling her that she has to go one more to get better than me. I told Srikanth the same,” Gopi said on Tuesday.
“They have done far better than what I have years ago. However, today we are looking at a different era and so the benchmarks have to be different — Gopi cannot be the benchmark for them.
There have been many firsts these players have achieved at Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Thomas and Uber Cups, Superseries... the benchmark now should be to be better than China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in that direction,” Gopi added.
However, new world no. 1 Srikanth Kidambi isn’t getting carried over by his status. “All I am looking at is to consistently perform well. If I do that, the rankings will stay. I will not run after rankings,” he said.
They have done far better than what I have years ago. Today we are looking at a different era and so Gopi cannot be the benchmark for them.
— Pullela gopichand
It’s been a memorable two weeks for me. Winning the team event gold, becoming the world no. 1 and also winning the singles silver.
— Srikanth Kidambi
Pleased to get some rest finally. I am blessed to be a part of this wonderful team. To me it was not the individual gold that mattered much but the one we won in the team championship.
— Saina Nehwal
Last time at the Commonwealth Games I won a bronze medal, this time it was a much better one. Hopefully next time it will be much more better.
— P. V. Sindhu
It was a fantastic tournament where everyone played really well. The coaches and physios helped me a lot.
— Rankireddy Satwiksai Raj
This was my first CWG and winning a silver and gold at the event was truly great.
— Chirag Shetty
The best part of the CWG was the team gold and the coaches instilled a lot of confidence in all of us. I am extremely glad to be part of this wonderful dream and am happy to be part of such an amazing team.
— Ashwini Ponnappa
Happy to win gold and bronze at the CWG. I would like to thank all the coaches and support staff for getting us going through the tournament.
— Sikki Reddy
First CWG, special one. Once we got into the quarterfinals and semi-finals the team members stuck around and rallied around each other. That made a big difference. I hope we will keep doing well.
— H. S. Prannoy
We all believed we could win the team event. We missed out on some individual medals but will come back strongly.
— Pranaav Jerry Chopra