India is a country where Cricket is treated like a religion and other games often fail to make a mark. In such a challenging scenario, Sindhu's victory has proven that badminton is fast emerging as the new favourite sport. Following Saina Nehwal, who won the bronze medal at the London Olympics 2012, PV Sindhu is carrying the glorious legacy forward. Her success would surely provide a strong leeway to the budding youngsters.

But, was it as easy as it appears? Certainly not! This question is also relevant because in India we often debate on lack of facilities being provided by sports federations and authorities.

Here, the man behind the story of Indian badminton is national coach Pullela Gopichand, who not only changed the passive atmosphere towards badminton but also laid the foundation stone of a world class training centre which has produced a pool of talent such as Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. Gopichand himself was a successful shuttler. He won a silver medal in the team event and a bronze medal in men's singles at Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games 1998.

He also won  the All England Open Badminton Championships 2001 in Birmingham. During his peak days, he was allured by many top brands for endorsement, but Gopichand turned them down as he wanted to devote his time to nurture the fresh talent. His undying love for badminton led him to be a professional coach.    

"She has played fantastic. She has played each match from the beginning - against Michelle, Wendy... She has really played well and she has fought hard. Today's win was great. She is up against a tough player in Carolina Marin tomorrow. We will give our best shot and let's see how it goes," Gopichand said after Sindhu's victory in the semi-final played on Friday at Rio.

In 2003, when Gopichand decided to become badminton coach, there were hardly any badminton courts, but a determined Gopichand built a training centre at Hyderabad. Gopichand required a huge amount to build a professional world class training centre. Therefore he consulted his distant relative Nimmagadda Prasad, a businessman who later financially assisted Gopichand.

He was now looking for a suitable piece land. Gopichand approached the Government of Andhra Pradesh and was allotted 5 acres of land for academy in 2003. He also pursued many private companies seeking sponsorship for his academy. Gopichand also approached a few Bollywood stars to be the brand ambassadors for the game.   

Initially, it was very difficult for him to run the training centre due to lack of money and resources. Despite facing the odds, Gopichand emerged as a real 'guru'. His painstaking and marathon efforts have been recognised by the government. He was conferred with Arjuna Award in 1999, Dronacharya Award in 2009, and Padma Bhushan in 2014.

Written by Raju Kumar/JPN

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