In a rare show of emotion, ace Badminton Coach Pullela Gopichand in an upcoming book has revealed about how upset he was when Saina Nehwal decided to join Prakash Padukone’s academy.
Gopichand, in a chapter titled 'Bitter Rivalry' in Dreams of a Billion: India and the Olympic Games, revealed how miserable he felt when Saina decided to join Padukone's academy to train under Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru after the 2014 World Championship.
Gopichand also said he felt hurt that Padukone, Vimal and Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) official Viren Rasquinha "encouraged her to leave Hyderabad".
According to reports, Gopichand has said in the book that Saina leaving his academy was like “something very dear” being taken away from him. He said that he had “literally begged” Saina not to leave, but she had already been influenced by others and had made up her mind. This was apparently because Saina felt that Gopichand was paying more attention to PV Sindhu.
While Gopichand said that he indeed had other players to look after, including Sindhu who had made a lot of progress in 2012-14, he did not intend to neglect Saina. “Maybe I wasn’t able to convey this to her,” he said.
The Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) on Tuesday made it clear that it played no role in Saina Nehwal shifting from Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad to Bengaluru to train under Vimal Kumar ahead of the Rio Olympics, calling the move the "sole decision" of the ace shuttler.
"PPBA did not have any role to play in Saina Nehwal's decision to move to Bengaluru and train at PPBA," Padukone academy said in a statement. "However, Vimal Kumar did help Saina in her slump period that saw her attain World No.1 ranking, besides getting silver medal at the All England Championships and World Championships."
In the book, Gopichand also wondered why the legendary Padukone, India's first badminton superstar "never had anything positive to say about him".
In response to this, PPBA said: "PPBA has utmost regard for Gopichand's contributions to Indian badminton as a player and a coach. We have also acknowledged Gopichand's contribution to his wards' successful performance at the world level and has always maintained good relations with him."
Gopichand himself had trained under Padukone before deciding to work under coach Ganguly Prasad ahead of his All England victory in 2001.
"PPBA has been grooming players over the last 25 years and has always stood for supporting their interest in whatever way we can. We have too many players moving on from our Academy at various stages in their career. We have never believed in restricting their growth, and that will continue to be academy's policy.
"The sporting careers of international athletes competing at the highest levels is relatively short, therefore it is up to each player to decide whatever is in his/her interests and make the most of the opportunities available to achieve their respective goals during their peak period," the Padukone academy said.