The saga of a selfless coach

He is always keen to see his trainees achieve better results than what he did as a player.

GREAT MENTOR: India's badminton coach Gopi Chand (right) has played a big role in shaping P.V. Sindhu's illustrious career.

This is the trait which makes India’s chief national coach and former All England champion, P. Gopi Chand, one of the most respected and successful coaches in India’s sporting history.

And, now Gopi has to his credit producing two Olympic medallists — bronze medallist Saina Nehwal in 2012 and now P.V. Sindhu in Rio ever since he set up his academy in Hyderabad in 2008.

A believer in destiny, he does his job and expects others to do theirs. There was a lot of planning which Gopi made before the big medal hopes — K. Srikanth and Sindhu — left for Rio.

The men’s and women’s doubles players trained at his first academy set up in 2008 and the singles players at the new one set up in coordination with the Sports Authority of India.

And, one of the unpublicised perspectives of the now famous Gopi-Sindhu combine was the battle Gopi has had to wage right through especially after Saina preferred to train under Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru in 2014.

“Gopi was distraught then. Yes, there was a feeling of disgust too. But, he was more determined later,” says a close family member of Gopi on condition of anonymity even as the celebrations were on at the academy after Sindhu entered the final in Rio.

“Only we know the kind of sacrifices we have had to make to see that Gopi’s passion for coaching doesn’t diminish. But, we all take pride in being part of his scheme of things to produce champions,” reminds the champion coach’s wife Lakshmi, the shuttler who represented India in 1996 Atlanta Games.

It may not be out of place to mention that Gopi’s seven-year-old son, Vishnu, was there daily at 4.30 a.m. to help Sindhu in dribbles at the academy — as revealed by Sindhu’s father P.V. Ramana.

“It is not that with vengeance I focus on my job. I am keen to ensure that all the trainees are in the comfort zone and naturally giving more attention to the fringe players on the verge of stardom after months of scientific training,” Gopi said recently.

But, despite all the unease in his own backyard, Gopi never uttered even a single word which would hurt anybody.

And, when the coach and Sindhu return home, Gopi may not be faulted to move around in the academy with a sense of pride in the company of the second Olympic medallist from there. “Sindhu’s Olympic medal cannot be the end. We want many more like her from this academy to make the country proud,” says Gopi’s mother Subbaravamma who is closely involved in the running of the two academies.