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Gopichand to coach national badminton team
New Delhi: His appointment aims to nurture talents for the World Badminton Championships and the Olympics. With Saina Nehwal's win in the Philippines open the day might not be far.
THE BADMINTON ASSOCIATION of India (BAI) has appointed Pullela Gopichand as the coach of the national badminton team for a period of four years. The decision was taken unanimously by members of the BAI.
 
Gopichand has already proved his ability as a mentor with the recent win of his protégé Saina Nehwal at the Philippines Open. Nehwal has become the first Indian woman to win a four-star event – an International Badminton Federation (IBF) ranking tournament – by clinching the title in the Philippines Open.
 
He will take over the reins from Vimal Kumar, who has coached the Indian team for the last three years and helped India reach the quarterfinals of the Thomas Cup held in Tokyo last month.
 
The former All England Open Badminton champion will oversee extensive training programmes that will focus on nurturing new talents for the World Badminton Championships in 2009, the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012. Gopichand will be assisted by Nan Ziao Nan of China for singles and Hadi Sugyinto for the doubles team.
 
Gopichand is not new to coaching. He has been actively involved in training new talents at his academy at the Gachibowli Stadium of the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh in Hyderabad. In order to give a wider exposure to its students, Gopichand even invited IBFqualified coach, Thomas John, to be associated with the academy on a long-term basis.
 
However, some analysts believe that Gopichand’s appointment will also garner good revenue for the BAI. The former badminton star has been recently included in the board of the Lakshmi Mittal Sports Foundation, established by the Indian-born business tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. It is speculated that the foundation might provide the BAI a grant of Rs 50 lakh. Alternately, some believe that the BAI had no other better choice than Gopichand for the post of the national head coach.
 
The newly appointed national coach has earned several accolades in the past. His greatest moment of triumph came when he won the All England Open Badminton Championship in 2001 defeating Chen Hong of China in the finals. He became the second Indian to claim the coveted title after Prakash Padukone, another Indian ace badminton player, who won it in 1980. He was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award for 2000-2001 and the Arjuna Award in 2000 for his excellent performance in the sport. In 2005, he was conferred with the Padma Shri.
 
His experience in international matches might help youngsters to learn about various techniques and how to handle pressure at high-level matches. However, it is up to the government to improve the infrastructure for the sport so that the new talents can utilise Gopichand’s expertise to the fullest.
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