'India not yet a badminton superpower'

MUMBAI • India stands on the brink of a badminton revolution but there is work to be done if the country hopes to emulate mighty China, national coach Pullela Gopichand said.

Pusarla Sindhu took silver in the women's singles at last year's Rio Olympics, while this year Kidambi Srikanth made three consecutive Super Series final appearances.

These performances have given badminton a boost in the world's second-most populous country.

"For the number of people who have taken up playing the sport, I will say yes," said Gopichand when asked if India was on the verge of a badminton revolution.

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"And hopefully these performances are more consistent.

"There are many, many parents who want their kids to give up everything and concentrate on badminton."

Srikanth lost to compatriot B. Sai Praneeth in the final in Singapore before winning in Indonesia and Australia, where he beat Chinese Olympic champion Chen Long.

In Indonesia, H.S. Prannoy defeated three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei and Chen in consecutive rounds before losing in the semi-finals.

"China as a dominant force has been challenged, both in the men's and women's. We have been responsible for it," said Gopichand.

"But I think the world championships, the Olympics are the big championships and medals which are critical. When we can beat them at those big events then I feel we can say that."

All three men, Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, who won women's singles bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, are products of the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, where the former All England champion credits a focus on fitness for the success.

India now boasts a larger pool of players poised to succeed at the highest level but Gopichand is not resting on his laurels.

"For us to be sustainable, for us to call ourselves a superpower, there is still a lot of work which needs to be done structurally," the 43-year-old said.

"For the next generation to come up, we need to put a system in place which actually identifies and nurtures talent."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline ''India not yet a badminton superpower''. Print Edition | Subscribe