Former Olympian and national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand is hoping his team will perform well at the London Games and make up for his lack of ‘pleasant Olympic memories’.
Gopichand lost to Indonesia’s Hendrawan 15-9, 15-4 in the pre-quarter-finals of the 2000 Sydney Games — the only Olympics he participated in. “I was very unhappy with the loss as I really wanted to win a medal. I was disheartened. So I do not have very pleasant Olympic memories,” said Gopichand, who won the All England Badminton championship in 2001.
India coach P Gopichand during his heyday. PIc/Getty Images
But on the bright side, the 38-year-old recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Padma Shri and Dronacharya award did get to meet his idol, Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergey Bubka, at the Olympics.
“The atmosphere at the Olympic village was phenomenal. The best of players across disciplines dine together. I got to meet Sergey Bubka and swimmer Michael Phelps at the games village. I got to spend five minutes with Bubka at the dining hall.
“I took his autograph as I really admire him. It also is the only autograph I have taken till date of any sporting star.”
Gopichand informed that Wembley Arena — the badminton venue at the Games is indeed a historic one for Indian badminton.
Prakash Padukone brought glory to India at this very same venue in 1980, by winning the All England Open championship here.
“This time around I have a small contingent with a medal potential. Wembley Arena is a historic venue where earlier the All England championship used to be held. Even Prakash sir (Padukone) won the prestigious All England title over here. I think we have medal chances in women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.”