Champ-making factory: A peek into Pullela Gopichand’s academy


Former All England Badminton champion Pullela Gopichand at his academy in Hyderabad (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times)

The city of Nizams was busy counting sheep. But chief national coach Pullela Gopichand was already in his lair.

On the other side of a large glass pane separating a hall that houses eight badminton courts with an office, a lean, muscular man in black shorts and a colourful jacket stood on a wooden box unleashing quick-fire missiles of shuttle-cocks across the net.

Holding ten shuttles in one hand and throwing them down furiously at three students, Gopichand, the last Indian player to win the coveted All England Club Title in 2001, was busy ensuring his trainees covered every inch of the court.

Gopichand’s fondness of starting practice early is known. For years, it was in the 4.30 am shift that Olympic finalist PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap trained before the then celebrated players, stars such as Saina Nehwal, arrived for the 6 am shift. “He is on courts before everybody at 4.15 am. And he stays till the last student has returned in the evening. Gopi Sir showers the same attention on each of the 50 trainees at the academy,” Kashyap told this correspondent when he visited the academy.

Sindhu and Srikanth, who beat Jan Jorgensen of Denmark in the round of 16, are just two of his illustrious wards on a conveyor belt of champions that Gopichand’s Academy in Hyderabad’s bustling Gachibawli neighbourhood, has produced.

Before Sindhu, of course, Gopichand’s most famous protégé was Saina Nehwal, till they famously parted ways after the London 2012 Olympics.

Click here for more…