A RevSportz Exclusive || “These kind of wins give wind to the sport” – Gopichand on women’s badminton triumph

Credit: BAI

It was a little over an hour after India had won. Social media was on overdrive and each one who is a fan of Indian badminton was celebrating. That was when Pullela Gopichand called back after seeing the messages. He was trying to sound calm but clearly, he was finding it hard to hide his excitement.

“Could this be the Thomas Cup moment for women’s badminton?” I asked.

There was a brief pause before he answered. “It is a huge moment for the sport,” said Gopi. “For Sindhu to start like that, and then Gayatri and Treesa playing a fantastic decider before Anmol getting us over the line, these are days you live for as a coach. It is a very special effort. The way the team cheered every point makes a team event very special.”


Gopi hardly speaks on Gayatri, his daughter, and each time I have asked him, he has tried to sidestep the topic. May be the father takes over. Today was different. “Yes, I am very pleased with the way she played,” he said. “To comeback from injury and put in strong performances on back-to-back days isn’t easy and that’s what Gayatri and Treesa were able to do. They should get a lot of confidence from this competition.”

On a day when Sindhu took out Supanida Katethong easily and Gayatri and Treesa gave India a 2-0 lead, it all came down to young Anmol Kharb. Under pressure, with her whole team cheering from the stands, the youngster was up to the challenge. Mentally, she must have added a few years as she played each point to perfection. From 14-14 in the first game, Anmol just raced away. “See, for her to win three deciders back to back means a lot and shows what she is made of,” said Gopi. “That’s what temperament is all about.”

So, is Sindhu on course then, I asked, and Gopi was straight off the blocks.

“See, she had to win today to give us the chance,” he said. “We knew we would have it tough in the 3rd and 4th matches, so we needed to win the first two to stay in the contest. No one had frankly given us a chance. All talk was about the men’s team. The women weren’t much talked about. So, when Sindhu gave us a start like that and looked superb, it ignited hope. And then, in the women’s doubles, we played back-to-back higher-ranked teams. Japan was World No. 6 and today was the world No. 10 pair. That was a huge match. All of it set up the decider. I am very happy for Sindhu because you needed her to be back, and she is.”

Was Anmol under pressure at any point, and what was the talk like at 11-10, I asked.

“I was telling her to just be herself and play her shots,” said Gopi. “There was no need to think it was a final. She just needed to play her own game and that’s all. I have to say this maturity was beyond her years, and that’s why she has a very bright future ahead.”

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Before I asked the next question, Gopi stopped me. “These kind of wins give wind to the sport,” he said. “Men’s badminton got a lot of support after the Thomas cup win. Except Sindhu, women’s badminton did not. Now they will. You need the sport to grow for more players to play and when you have more talent on the block, you will have exceptional players come through. Had Tanisha not been injured in the ankle, we could have won that as well and sealed it.”

In all, it was a special victory set up by some very special performances. And what it does is give hope with the Olympics in Paris just five months away.

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