Pullela Gopichand is now a household name in India, he is now known as the Dronacharya of Indian Badminton. But to reach the epitome of Indian badminton Pullela Gopichand had to face a lot of struggles and hardships. Pullela breathed new life into Indian badminton after training players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap, Sai Praneeth, and many more. But do you know there was a time when Pullela Gopichand had to mortgage his house to build his academy?
After Prakash Padukone, he’s the only badminton legend who became the second Indian to win the All England Open Badminton Championship. He defeated world number one Peter Gade and then Chen Hong to lift the trophy. Pullela Gopichand has his name inscribed in golden letters in the history of World Badminton Leagues. This is the story of the legend who has devoted all his life to representing India on the world stage.
Pullela Gopichand’s Love For Cricket
Not a lot of people know this but Pullela Gopichand, the Indian Badminton legend was really fond of cricket and wanted to pursue cricket as a career in his early school days. After being asked about his love for cricket Pullela said “After India won the 1983 world cup, everyone wanted to play cricket and represent India, he too became fascinated by the idea and went to the cricket stadium to get the right coaching but after being denied by the coaches, he then finally landed on the badminton court”.
Initially he used to train with S.M. Arif and then he was accepted by Prakash Padukone in the Prakash Padukone Academy. Pullela Gopichand was always interested in sports and fitness. He was an average student in school life so he looked towards sports as the only escort to lead his life with.
Pullela Gopichand is the chief head coach of the Indian national badminton team. Recently after the Indian men won the Thomas Cup, Pullela compared reaching the finals to be even bigger than the 1983 cricket world cup win.
“This is such a significant moment. The Thomas Cup is the biggest tournament in team badminton. Making the finals means you stand eye to eye with the best nations in world badminton. The magnitude of an Indian team reaching the final is what I’d imagine the team that made the cricket World Cup finals back in 1983,” said Gopichand.
A Superstar Training The New-gen Badminton Stars
In his playing career from 1991 to 2004, Pullela Gopichand won numerous national and international championships. Here’s a list of championships he had won medals in –
- 1996 – 2004 – Held his trophy of National Champion
- 1998 – Won two gold and one silver at Indian National Games, at Imphal
- 1997 – Runner Up at India Open Tournament
- 1998 – Bronze at Commonwealth Games In Malaysia
- 1999 – Gold medal at Le Volant d’Or de Toulouse, Scottish Open, and India International Runner up at French Open and German Open
- 2000 – Bronze at Asian Championship in Indonesia
- 2001 – Gold medal at All England Open
- 2004 – Gold medal at India Asian Satellite
But after retiring from his playing career Pullela thought of setting up his own academy but due to lack of finances, he couldn’t arrange funds but tried hard whatever he could. He said in an interview with India Today “All England in 2001, I thought things would change. Good I got a piece of land which the government helped out. After that, I went searching for people who would give me funds. There were the initial funds given by Prasad. After that, literally went to a lot of people to ask for money”.
“We had this house in Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad. I said I can’t do these running anymore. I said the building is half done but we need the courts. We need to do something. Luckily, we mortgaged our house and got a Rs 3 crore loan for it. That’s how we completed the academy,” Gopichand added.
After all the hardships faced by the international champion shuttler, Pullela Gopichand started his academy and trained the new-age badminton champions who are bringing laurels to the country. Pullela Gopichand academy has produced players like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap, Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt, and Arun Vishnu.
Saina Nehwal went on to win the bronze at 2012 London Olympics, PV Sindhu went on to win silver medal at 2016 Rio Olympics, bronze at 2020 Tokyo Olympics and became the first Indian to win gold at BWF championship. Kidambi Srikant won four Super series titles in 2017 and became world no.1 in 2018 under the coaching of Pullela. Recently Indian Men’s team led by the chief coach of Indian badminton Pullela Gopichand won the most prestigious Thomas Cup held in Denmark. Indian men’s team defeated 14-times champion Indonesia with a lead of 3-0 in the finals.
Indian badminton owes it’s success to the great Pullela Gopichand. The Indian government also awarded Pullela Gopichand with numerous awards,
- Arjuna Award, 1999
- Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna, 2001
- Padma Shri, 2005
- Dronacharya Award, 2009
- Padma Bhushan, 2014
- Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, 2013, under Category Establishment and Management of Sports Academies of Excellence- Pullela Gopichand Academy of Badminton, Hyderabad
Mad4India congratulates team India for the Thomas Cup victory and also give our best wishes to Pullela Gopichand and the team for it’s future endeavours.
If you like the story about the Indian badminton team, you can also read 5 Legends of Indian Football Team That Scripted Nation’s Golden Era