02 March, 2021

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P. Gopichand’s obsession with badminton is at the root of his academy emerging as a centre of excellence

The master surveys his trainees at the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad
Photograph by A. Prabhakar Rao
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P.V. Sindhu’s match is still not over. As she is shuttled between Andhra and Telangana, each chief minister trying to outscore the other in lavishing praise and pelf on her, the person looking somewhat bewildered beside her is coach Pullela Gopichand—the one man behind Indian badminton’s astonishing  surge in the world arena. Gopichand’s wards are a veritable star cabinet—Saina Nehwal, who briefly touched the dizzying summit of World No. 1 in March 2015, Srikanth Kidambi, who came heart-breakingly close to a medal at Rio (that too against the great Lin Dan), Parupalli Kashyap, who got gold in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games of 2014, India’s top-ranked doubles player Jwala Gutta and rising stars Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt, Arun Vishnu.... The list goes on; hopefully, there are more world champions in the making in the assembly line at the Gopichand Badminton Academy.

What makes Gopichand and his academy tick when most sporting INS­titutes in India, both government-run and private, flounder? When the only time coaches make...

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