Badminton legend Pullela Gopichand, currently on a tour of Sikkim, as the Vice President of Badminton Association of India, has been in focus after Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay on Tuesday announced of partnership for sending talented 10-15 players every year to Gopichand Academy. The focus was also shifted towards development of badminton infrastructure such as courts in Sikkim.
The Chief Minister announced that the government will pass a budget for construction of badminton courts in the State. It garnered a loud cheer from the Sikkimese shuttlers and those associated with Badminton Association of Sikkim, who have been pursuing the endeavour for years.
Pullela Gopichand who watched and participated in the finale of the Governor’s Cup for Badminton at Paljor Stadium on Tuesday, held an interactive discussion with players, coaches, technical officers and administrators on June 15.
Speaking on queries about whether infrastructure development like courts, Chief National coach for badminton, shared, “The people at the world level, are not the ones with the best facilities. Facilities will help you, but they are not solely responsible for their success. My trip will be successful, if we are able to have some more badminton courts. Badminton Association of Sikkim is trying for it, with the blessing of the Chief Minister we should have some more courts”.
On the development of Gopichand Academy in Sikkim, the Padma Bhusan winning athlete shared, “From Badminton Association of India and Gopichand Academy, we will try our best to provide facilities for the players in the future. We have held talks with the Badminton Association of Sikkim regarding the matter. In coming days we will organize tours and programmes. Land becomes a bigger issue, when it comes to infrastructure development, to get plain lands in the Hills are always a challenge. But with the keen interest of the government, we can find an answer for that. I do believe it is important step in ensuring that we can produce more players in the future”.
On the development of national level athletes from Sikkim, Gopichand shared, “In general, people living in the mountainous region, they have a better lung capacity. Their strength is also more. Both these features are important fo9r sports. I see here there are many players, they are with good physique, if they get more facilities, in the coming years they might represent the country, someday”.
Gopichand also batted for women athletes, he shared, “Even if you want to take sports as player, coach, technical officer, as physiotherapist, as administrator, the opportunity is huge. People are less, especially women. All the ladies playing, continue the sport. Gender equality is very important in sport, we want more women players to come to the sport.We are looking for lady coaches, lady adminstrator or technical officials, ladies are very important. Don’t leave the sport, stay with it”.
Praising the interest of the Sikkim government in sports, particularly badminton, Gopichand shared, “Tournaments like the Governors Cup, when the Governor and Chief Minister taking it as a celebration, staying long hours and playing alongside, it is big encouragement to the sport. This is one of the first (tour) projects, we (BAI) are taking up, which I am sure will help. I am hoping that trips like this of mine, will bare fruit in having more infrastructure, have more players play exhibition matches, which inspires people and brings focus on the sport . These are the few things we are trying to do and we are hopeful that these things happening in the next one year”.
Gopichand highlighted how sports development in the country has begun only in the last decade. He shared, “Only in last 10 years sports in India has started. If it was in 1980s or 90s, we couldn’t say this. But now in 10 years, lot will change in sports and hopefully things will be better. Maybe in 3 or 5 years, oppourtunities and sports in our country will grow. Government of India is doing a lot, every state government is doing, we are at the right time”.
The ace shuttler claimed that there has been transformation of sports in India, whether it is initiatives of the government or the associations. “How the government of India and their schemes whether it be Khelo India or Fit India, there is always a scope for improvement of the players, because of these programmes which are being run. I am sure, in the last few years, such programmes have benefitted the players across the country. It might be little slow to get into every nook and corner of the country, but I am sure, with the kind of energy and the facilities, the progrmmes which are happening, I think it is only a matter of time, before Sikkim players also get an opportunity to be best in the country and the world”.
Gopichand shared that Badminton is the fastest growing sport in the country. He stated, “The number of players playing is tremendous, the Badminton Association of India is also very keen on developing the sport. Our President and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma and Prime Minister are bullish towards the promotion of the sport”.