There is a 2007 Tollywood film Okkadunnadu starring reel hero Gopichand. But as we know the real Okkadu is the real life hero Pullela Gopichand. We actually do not need an olympic medal to keep talking about him with the highest regard. If that was the case his other student Saina Nehwal got us an olympic medal 4 years back itself.
Andhra Nation saluted this hero more than 2 years back with a story titled “If only other sports could find their own Pullela Gopichands “. (You can read it here). But Gopi’s story needs telling and re-telling not just because his academy has produced a Saina, a Srikanth, a Kashyap or a Sindhu. His is a story of single minded determination to create a world class ecosystem which can produce heroes after heroes for many more years. His academy is now like a perennial river which would not dry up even in the harshest summer.
What differentiates Gopichand from other ex stars of other games / sports is the way he is giving back to the society. We have had many champions earlier in many sporting events. We have had many cricket, hockey, football, chess stars etc in the past and some of them enjoyed fame and money far in excess of their true worth. Almost all of them receded into the background after their stints came to an end. Many cricket stars turned into commentators and administrators and have indulged in dubious politicking for personal monetary gains. No one gave it back to the sport the way Gopi did.
Gopi has toiled for more than a decade to achieve the results that India is cherishing now. He wakes up very early in the morning, arrives at his academy by 3.45 – 4.00 in the early hours and stays up till late in the evening. This was his schedule for most part of the last 12 years, since he decided to become the coach.
This is not to take away any credit from the personal achievements of the string of stars he produced like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap and Kidambi Srikanth. True all of them need to be hailed for their individual sporting excellence. But as we know, in India’s traditional system of learning — the gurukul system — it is the guru that comes first. In the case of Indian badminton none of the above stars would have been what they are today if there was no Gopi on the scene.
Hats off to you Gopi sir, take the nation’s bow !! As the Times of India headlined this morning, you are the true ” Champion who produces Champions”