There is an assured calmness about him because he barely utters anything on the court. Known as the Godfather of Indian badminton, he is none other than Pullela Gopichand.
It is not often that we see one single man become the sole driving force of badminton in a country. But that is exactly what Gopichand has done for us. He has made badminton popular in India, first as a player and now as a coach.
Pullela Gopichand Biography
Date of Birth
Nagandla, Prakasam, Andhra Pradesh
Birth of a legacy
On November 16, 1973, in Andhra Pradesh; the Pullela family celebrated the birth of their champ Gopichand. After high school, Gopichand attended AV College in Andhra Pradesh. Pullela Gopichand earned a degree in public administration.
In 1990, he also began to play in the University’s badminton team. Gopichand continued to play with this team throughout 1990 and into early 1991. At the same time, he was also taking engineering classes. However, he failed these classes and dropped out of college. After leaving college, Pullela Gopichand decided to focus on badminton.
Badminton at an early age
Although he was initially much more interested in cricket and used to play badminton as a recreational sport but on the advice of his elder brother, Gopichand switched to badminton. Under the guidance of Syed Mohammed Arif, a recipient of Dronacharya and Padma Shri Award, Gopi started his badminton career.
Eventually, Prakash Padukone enrolled the young talent into his academy, which was built in 1994 in Bengaluru. And, rest as they say is history.
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Gopichand’s first National Badminton Championship title came in the year 1996 and he went onto win the title five times in a row, till the year 2000. Also, he won two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal at National Games 1998 held at Imphal. The same year, Gopichand led the State Badminton team of Andhra Pradesh to win the prestigious Rahmatulla Cup.
Gopichand made his debut into International badminton in 1991 when he was selected to play against Malaysia. In his international career, he represented the nation in three Thomas Cup tournaments. In the year 1996, Gopichand grabbed a Gold Medal in the SAARC Badminton Tournament held at Vijayawada and repeated the victory in the same tournament held at Colombo in 1997. At the Commonwealth Games, he won a Silver Medal in the team event and a Bronze Medal in the singles event.
He also later went on to win medals at the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and won other tournaments like Toulouze Open, Scottish Open and the Asian Satellite Open. His career was almost cut short back when he was in his late 20’s. He suffered a serious knee injury during a doubles match in 1994.
But his grit and determination didn’t let him down. Gopichand’s crowning glory came in 2001 when he became just the second Indian after Prakash Padukone to win the prestigious All England Championships.
|1999||Le Volant d’Or de Toulouse||Richard Vaughan|
|1999||Scottish Open||Siddharth Jain|
|1999||India International||Ajit Wijetilek|
|2001||All England Open||Chen Hong|
|2004||India Asian Satellite||JBS Vidyadhar|
|1997||India Open||Hariyanto Arbi|
|1999||French Open||Chen Gang|
|1999||German Open||Xia Xuanze|
Gopichand’s Coaching at his best
Out of the many awards he received after 2001, one was this huge piece of land that the government awarded to him in Hyderabad. Gopi decided to use this land for the academy and set about acquiring the required funding and sponsors for it. However, the road was not easy.
Also Read: All You Need To Know About Badminton
The Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy
The project got delayed and finally, Gopi had to mortgage his own house to complete the construction. The academy was finally up set in 2008. The academy has come up by leaps and bounds. It is now recognised by the Badminton World Federation as a centre of excellence.
The creme de la creme of Indian badminton now trains at Gopi’s academy under his coaching. The list includes PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap and Guru Saidutt.
His disciple Saina Nehwal brought an Olympic bronze medal in 2012. One of his student PV Sindhu bagged a silver medal in Rio Olympics, crediting him for all her success. Gopichand was the national coach of the badminton team that performed at the Rio Olympics. Apart from the top players, there are many young and upcoming players in the academy as well.
A strict disciplinarian
Gopi once revealed that he did not allow PV Sindhu to even have ice creams and sweet yogurt for close to two weeks during her Olympics 2016 campaign, besides keeping her off the phone for the last three months.
“Sindhu did not have her phone during the last three months. The first thing is I would return her phone,” an elated Gopi, said while speaking to reporters after Sindhu clinched the silver medal.
The ride so far has not been easy for Gopichand as he has made numerous sacrifices and taken tough risks to reach this position. According to the Indian Express, Gopichand went on a Ketogenic diet (a high-fat, average protein and low-carb diet) in 2012 for a whole year just to check if his proteges would be able to take it. He had restricted his own intake to just 8-10 things permitted by the diet chart and looked as fit as ever.
Wind under his wings
His father Pullela Subhash Chandra was a banker. He also have a brother named Rajashekhar Gopichand and sister Hima Bindu. Like all great stories, he credits his success to the feminine superpower in his life. His mother and wife have stood behind him and his dreams through his initial days and continue to do so.
His wife, PVV Lakshmi, also a badminton player, represented India at Atlanta Olympics in 1996. His children, Gayathri and Sai Vishnu, have taken the onus to continue their father’s legacy with continuous achievements.
Biopic in the making
Chief national coach of the Indian badminton team and Padma Shri awardee Pullela Gopichand’s journey — on and off the court — has been a commendable one. And now it is the subject of a biopic that should come to the big screen soon.
The rights for the film have been acquired by producer Vikram Malhotra — producer of movies like Airlift, Baby and more. The movie will be bilingual (Hindi and Telugu) and it is currently under development.
Unknown & Interesting facts about Pullela Gopichand
- He wanted to play cricket but chose badminton because of his brother.
- When Gopichand was 13, he ruptured a ligament but same year after a surgery he won the singles and double titles in an interschool competition.
- To get the best raquet for Gopi, his mother sold her jewellery.
- He has his biography ‘The World Beneath His Feat’ launched in 2011 which is written by former champion Sanjay Sharma and his daughter Shachi.
- Pullela Gopichand is the follower of spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravishankar.
- Gopichand won the Arjuna Award in 1999 and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001 in recognition of his sporting achievements.
- The Government of India bestowed upon him the Padma Shri in 2005 and the Padma Bhushan—India’s third highest civilian award—in 2014.
- He has also received Dronacharya Award in 2009.
- Pullela Gopichand is also felicitated with Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, 2013 under Category Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence- Pullela Gopichand Academy of Badminton, Hyderabad.
- Gopichand is also rewarded for coaching the silver medallist PV Sindhu at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
For India’s billions to realise each of their own aspirations, we need more leaders like Gopi from all walks of life. His story is influential and inspirational. The world has already admired his sincere efforts and true dedication towards his passion.
Gopichand is one of the most excellent badminton players of the nation, earning lots of love and respect from the people not only from the country but across the globe. The man has carved the badminton legends of the nation, uplifting the stature of the sport in our country. A big hail to the Don Vito Corleone of Indian badminton!
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