As P V Sindhu storms into the women’s badminton final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, here’s a look behind the scenes at the training that went into making her a champion and the man responsible for it.
At the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Gachibowli, in Hyderabad’s IT corridor, coach Gopichand is always the first to arrive at 4 am. His early morning practice sessions are usually with his senior and star students who have been training with him for years – students like P V Sindhu.
As he pushes her to the limit, challenging her to stretch herself higher and move with greater and greater speed and agility and flexibility, Gopichand is aware that he is training a sportswoman of international calibre and potentially a medal hope at the Olympics.
Gopichand has been off carbohydrates for the last three months himself. He is known to be a fitness freak but on this occasion he is not thinking of his own health but of the fitness levels of the two athletes he will be taking to the Rio Olympics – Sindhu and Srikanth Kadimbi. He wants to be in excellent shape in order to to be a sparring partner for these two champions in training.
India’s badminton coach has been doing some careful planning for the Games for almost a year now. A weight trainer and physical fitness instructor have been assigned to Sindhu. While he takes care of her technique and other training aspects, these two experts are in charge of building her strength and stamina so she can continue to play without getting tired and engage her opponents in long rallies.
Gopichand’s word is law with Sindhu. He is aware of her complete schedule everyday and keeps a keen eye on what she eats, how much she sleeps, and much more. Sindhu too follows his instructions blindly and she has been doing so for the last 12 years that she has been training with him. Her favourite foods, chocolates and Hyderabadi biryani, have been banned by her strict coach.
In the wake of several doping scandals, Gopichand is also concerned about someone putting drugs in her meals. So, she is not allowed to drink water and eat any food from outside. And now, at Rio, she has to eat every single meal in the dining hall with Gopichand only.
As mentioned earlier, Gopichand does not just expect strict discipline from his students but has also set a punishing schedule for himself. He has been waking up at 2 am everyday to go over videos of Sindhu’s previous games and analyse them for errors she is making.
“Producing champions is not a part-time business. There are some constants that you need to follow to excel at the international level,” Gopichand told Newslaundry.
With Srikanth Kidambi having put up an excellent show at the Rio Games, and P V Sindhu poised to win a gold or silver medal in today’s match up against World No. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain, India needs to produce not just more exceptional athletes like these two champions but also more world-class coaches like Gopichand.
We wish him and his ward the very best for a match that all of India is looking forward to.