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Olympic medal is a new normal at Gopichand Badminton Academy

Players undergo agility training, super circuit training gym and fitness regimen, to match the strength of international players

B Dasarath Reddy  |  Hyderabad 

India's Pusarla V Sindhu with coach Pullela Gopichand after she lost against Spain's Carolina Marin in women's Singles final at the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil
India's Pusarla V Sindhu with coach Pullela Gopichand after she lost against Spain's Carolina Marin in women's Singles final at the 2016 Summer Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil

With some one among its top players — first Saina Nehwal and now P V Sindhu — returned home with a medal in the two consecutive Olympics, Hyderabad-based Gopichand Badminton Academy established consistency that goes beyond the individual star performers as it now focuses on producing a gold medallist in the 2020 Olympics.

Just as a new star was born on the international stage bringing Olympic silver to her country on Friday, the academy has also evolved into a world class badminton training centre that was poised to produce Olympic medallists.testing.. we are here....

"A lot has been changed at Gopichand Academy compared to where it was used to be 5-6 years ago in terms of training and preparing a player for international competitions. Many newer elements were added with a focus on stroke practices, improving fitness levels and making players psychologically strong and even we brought in a strict nutrition and dietary regimen,” a senior member of the academy told Business Standard.

Apart from daily practice on courts, the players undergo agility training, super circuit training (a form of body conditioning to build strength and muscular endurance), gym and fitness regimen among other on-the-court and off-the-court routine to match the strength and ability of international players. The academy has a strong contingent of 18 coaches including the fitness coaches.

Former All England Badminton Champion and founder of the academy, Pullela Gopichand, brings the other finer elements to the table like analysing the work of rival players and that of his own wards to customise the training for individual athletes depending on where they needed to improve. Gopichand had built this private badminton training facility in 2008 with his own savings and a Rs 5-crore donation made by Matrix Laboratories founder Nimmagadda Prasad.

A sea change in Sindhu’s performance at Rio Olympics compared to the days of her first Grand Prix medal victory in 2013 comes as the academy’s growing ability in preparing the players to accomplish things at the highest level, say observers. In fact, Sindhu’s Rio performance exceeded the expectations of the academy as the coaches were preparing her for fighting for a gold medal in the next Olympics in 2020, according to the academy insiders.

Accounts for over 100 national and international level medals in badminton to its credit, Gopichand Academy sets an example in few other aspects useful to those aspiring to produce Olympic medallists in other fields as well.

As the medal tally shows, the academy has developed a strong pipeline of athletes who have already proved their mettle at various national and international level competitions and were ready to go to the next level. The task was relatively easier as the academy has been tapping the talent from a large catchment only a country with a size of India can provide.

The 40 players who stay in the academy campus at Gachibowli, have come from a dozen states including Delhi, Punjab, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Haryana, Maharashtra and Kerala. Parents of the other 75 boys and girls being trained at the academy, live in the city. The academy also runs small branches at Gwalior, Vadodara, Selam and Tanuku where it gives training to the young aspiring players to a certain level.

The academy has already lined up and preparing four boys and four girls, namely Srinath, Pranoy, Kashyap, Gurusaidutt, Ritvika Shivani, P C Tulasi, Rituparna Das and Gayatri Gopichand for the Commonwealth and Asian Games to be held in 2018. Among these Kashyap was the first boy to reach the quarter finals in the 2012 London Olympics.

Registered as a charitable society, Gopichand Academy follows a financing model that helps keep the training charges affordable to many. It charges Rs 15,000 per month for players who stay in the campus and Rs 3,000 for others irrespective of their level of training. "It costs us at least Rs 25,000 per month on each student who stays in the campus. We have been able to subsidise their costs using the voluntary donations," one of the managers at the academy said. The training begins at 4 in the morning every day and nobody gets a single extra holiday except on Sundays.

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First Published: Sun, August 21 2016. 15:44 IST