While India celebrated its first assured silver medal with PV Sindhu's win on Thursday and looked forward to a possible gold medal, there was one man that was on everybody's mind - Pullela Gopichand.
"Gopi is really proud of her. We are all hoping for gold. It will be a tough match," PVV Lakshmi, Gopichand's wife told ANI on Thursday after Sindhu's win.
For the past two years, Olympian turned coach, Pullela Gopichand has showcased his ability to churn out winners like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and K Srikanth, from his academy in Hyderabad.
Sukhwant Basra for The Hindustan Times writes:
Those early morning sessions in the wee hours that he is famous for have not only sculpted the skills of players like PV Sindhu and K Srikanth but have also made for tougher minds. On account of this man, Indians no longer believe that the Chinese are unbeatable.
The Indian Express writes that no one can claim to have as much influence in Indian badminton or one sport across the spectrum as â€˜Gopiâ€™ does. And thereâ€™s good reason for him to have that influence.
Writing for Newslaundry, T S Sudhir states that Gopichand followed a more rigorous schedule than his students, arriving at the academy at 4 in the morning and totally cutting himself off carbohydrates, so he could make a good sparring partner for Sindhu.
The report adds:
In the quest for a podium finish, Gopi can go to any extent. With Sindhu too, the line was drawn: Gopiâ€™s word is law. Gopi treats her like a kid, a work in progress who needs his encouragement and guidance 24Ã—7. Sindhu, who has trained with Gopi for the last 12 years, has acknowledged that she has learnt her game entirely from him and follows his word blindly.
Born in 1973, Gopichand was self-taught and determined at the sport, winning the All England Open Badminton Championship in 2001 - the second Indian to achieve this after Prakash Padukone.
He received the Arjuna Award in 1999 and the subsequent Dronacharya award in 2009.
In 2000, after a loss at the Sydney Olympics, Gopichand was unsure if he could participate in the next Olympics and decided to turn coach instead.
"When I started out as a coach, there were many who dissuaded me saying the system will not let you succeed. But I feel it is important to keep pushing. I saw ourselves as world beaters and I wanted to prove the sceptics wrong,'' he was quoted as saying.
In 2014, he was awarded India's third highest civilian award - the Padma Bhushan.
Sindhu's parents themselves give the entire credit of their daughter's win to Gopichand.
Speaking to India Today, Sindhu's father P V Ramana said:
"The entire thing has been done by Gopi. Coming to the game part, he has taken care of and he has moulded the child to this level. So the credit goes to Gopi. Dropping her at the stadium is our job. Parents have to give them the support...but he is the one that has moulded Sindhu into a champion of the county. The entire credit should go to Gopi."'
â€” India Today (@IndiaToday) August 17, 2016
However, Gopichand did not have it easy. While then-Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu gave him five acres of land in 2003, no company was ready to fund his dream academy until businessman Nimmagadda Prasad decided to donate about Rs 5 crore, on the promise that it would result in an Olympic medal for India.
Speaking of his initial troubles, the Times of India reported:
Gopi also faced stiff resistance from senior players like Jwala Gutta and Chetan Anand, who questioned his experience and credentials. In 2009, the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government threatened to take over a part of the five-acre land. Gopi was forced to go to court and an amicable settlement took quite a while. Then came the Prajakta Sawant controversy, with the doubles player accusing Gopi of spoiling her career.
However, Gopichand has faced it all and has emerged victorious as Sindhu's win on Thursday proved it.
A lot of tributes have also been pouring in for the 'Dhronacharya' of Indian badminton on social media.
P Gopichand is the Dronacharya of Indian sport. #PVSindhuâ€” Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) August 18, 2016
Huge respect for Pullela Gopichand who has been creating gem after gem. Sir, thanks a lotâ€” Rahul Raj (@bhak_sala) August 18, 2016
Seriously speaking, if thr is anothr sportsperson that deserves the Bharat Ratna purely basis achvment & contribution it's Pullela Gopichandâ€” Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) August 18, 2016
We will now see BAI,IOA,SAI,Sports Ministry, etc.trying to claim credit. This achievement belongs to Sindhu & Gopichand alone.â€” Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) August 18, 2016