Don’t Make Olympic Qualification Primary Goal, Focus On Process: Pullela Gopichand

Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Tuesday advised Indian players to not to obsess over Paris Olympic qualification, urging them to focus on the process without taking “unnecessary pressure”. Paris berths will be sealed on April 28 when the Olympic qualification rankings are out with singles players inside the top 16 making the cut. “I think Olympics is still a long way. There are still about eight tournaments to play. I don’t think it’s right to go after that as a player,” Gopichand told reporters. “I think it’s too much pressure unnecessarily to start thinking about the race to Paris as a primary role.

“I think it’s important to stick to the process, I think the points, the rankings, and the qualification will take care of itself. That’s how I would want the players to look at it.

“Because everybody is asking the same question. Everyone’s saying the big one is Paris. I think if you do the right things every day, Paris will come and we won’t have a problem.” Men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankiredddy and Chirag Shetty and singles ace HS Prannoy are almost assured of a Paris berth.

Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth are also fighting for the second spot in men’s singles.

While double Olympic medalist PV Sindhu is scripting a comeback from injury, women’s doubles pairs — Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand, and Ashwini Ponnappa/Tanisha Crasto — are also fighting to be inside the top 16 by April.

“As a coach, it’s important that you keep pushing the players, and you expect more from the players,” Gopichand continued.

“We’ve had a great year, we had some very good wins in events that matter whether it’s World Championships, whether it’s the Asian Games, I think we did well there.

“This year the big one is the Olympics and hopefully we can get a big contingent there and win some good medals.” ‘Prannoy, real hero’ ============== It has been a phenomenal season for HS Prannoy as he won maiden bronze medals at the World Championships and Asian Games, besides claiming a maiden Super 500 title at Malaysia Masters.

He also played pivotal roles in India winning the Thomas Cup and a silver at Commonwealth Games and Asian Games team events.

“He’s always been somebody who’s been level-headed, realistic,” Gopichand said.

“Yes, he was unfortunate. He has health issues that sometimes flare up, and he has to battle. He has understood his body a lot better over the years and it’s really good.

“He’s always been hovering around there with a performance or two. He’s contributed quite a bit whether it’s Badminton Asia Championships, Thomas Cup or Asian Games. So I’m happy for him and I think he can beat anybody.

“It is very impressive. He is a real hero in my heart. I’m proud of him. And I think he should be able to claim even more than that.” Gopi hails player-turned-coaches ======================= Former CWG medallists RMV Gurusaidutt and Parupalli Kashyap have taken up coaching, and training the likes of Prannoy and Srikanth and Gopichand said it is a great sign for Indian badminton.

“One of the challenges which I had was at a point I had about 6-7 players in the top 30 and I wasn’t able to be give enough time to each of them. So I think this just gives them that freedom to have coaches who are working exclusively for them.

“For the first time, we are seeing some top players coming back directly to the National camp. We’ve had coaches, I’m not saying we didn’t have Indian coaches before, but they were not working with the national team all the time.

“So I think it helps that players are turning into coaches. I am super happy.” Priyanshu Rajawat on Tuesday stunned Sen to enter the second round of the India Open super 750 and Gopichand feels he has the weapon to do well in future.

“He has the speed. Today, you might have seen him also have the quality of strokes which are impressive. But there is a lot more to it than just having the weapons.

“He’s had some good wins but he needs to be consistent. But with a game like that, it is not very easy to be consistent. But if he gets consistent, he could be there for a long time. The quicker he stabilises, I think it’d be very good.”

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