Indian badminton coach and former player, Pullela Gopichand has been handed an honourable mention by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the 2019 Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award.
The 46-year-old finished as the runner-up in the male coaches’ category and is the first Indian to receive the honour.
“The panel wishes to recognize his efforts in the development of badminton in India, his efforts in supporting athletes across sports and his contribution to the Olympic movement,” read IOC’s statement.
“I am happy with this recognition, which I see as a recognition for all Indian coaches. I am grateful to the government of India, the sports ministry, the badminton association and the Indian Olympic Association,” Pullela Gopichand told the Times of India.
“I hope this will encourage our coaches to do even better. I am also sure this international recognition will motivate me to do better,” he added.
A glowing reputation as coach
Pullela Gopichand was one of India’s early badminton stars along with Prakash Padukone and won the prestigious All England Badminton Championships in 2001. Though he did not win an Olympic medal himself, he has contributed to two badminton medals as a coach.
The chief national coach of the Indian badminton team has played a key part in developing the skills of Saina Nehwal, who won bronze at London 2012 and PV Sindhu, who won the silver at Rio 2016 and became the first Indian to win the Badminton World Championships last year.
Apart from his two most famous proteges, the Gopichand Badminton Academy, Pullela Gopichand’s brainchild has produced the likes of former world no.1 Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap, and current world no.11, B Sai Praneeth.
His 16-year-old daughter, Gayatri Gopichand is also a badminton player who made her debut at the Premier Badminton League this season and displayed impressive resilience.