24 January, 2021

The Union Territory Of Badminton

Saina to Sindhu, Pullela Gopichand’s academy in Hyderabad has in a decade mentored most of our top shuttlers

The Union Territory Of Badminton

The sound of whizzing shuttles echoes in the giant hall at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy. Two boys, aged 14 or so, keep leaping high in the air as they practise their smashes, stopping briefly to glance in awe as the academy’s latest champ, P.V. Sindhu, walks by. Then it’s back to the grind, nothing, not even celebrations around a World Championship medal, eats into net practice time.

The 39-year-old Gopi­ch­and, former All England Open champ and academy founder, watches from the corner of his eye, gesturing to the coach subtly. “It’s amazing. Finally, we have newspapers giving a full page to a badminton victory,” Gopichand says with a shy smile. Of late, Gopi’s academy has become a sort of ‘champ factory’, churning out a line of world-class, aggressive shuttlers. Be it world no. 4 Saina Nehwal, Sindhu (no. 12), Parupalli Kashyap (men’s no. 17) or world no. 20 Guru Sai Dutt, they are all alumni of this academy. Being a high-energy sport, badminton is often referred to as a “coach-vs-coach...



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