In a new book titled 'Dreams of a Billion: India and the Olympic Games', national badminton head coach Pullela Gopichand has opened up on the hurt he felt when Saina Nehwal left his academy to train in Bengaluru at Prakash Padukone's.
The former All-England champion spoke about the difficult times. In the book Saina's husband and former CWG gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap too talks about the tough times.
Gopichand also wondered why the legendary Padukone, India's first badminton superstar, never had anything positive to say about him.
In the book's chapter titled 'Bitter Rivalry' Gopichand revealed how miserable he felt when Saina decided to join Padukone's academy to train under Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru after 2014 World Championship.
"It was as if something very dear was being taken away from me. Earlier, I had literally begged her (Saina) not to go. But by then she had been influenced by others and had already made up her mind. While I didn't want to hold her back and stall her progress, I knew this was something that wasn't beneficial for either of us.
"Yes, I indeed had other players to look after and Sindhu had made serious progress in the two years between 2012 and 2014. But I had never intended to neglect Saina. May be I wasn't able to convey this to her.
"May be Viren (Rasquinha) or Vimal or Prakash sir could have spoken to her. I don't know why they didn't. In fact, they encouraged her to leave Hyderabad. It is a mystery to me why Prakash sir has never said anything positive about me while I have always looked up to him as my role model," Gopichand revealed in the book co-written by sports historian Boria Majumdar and senior journalist Nalin Mehta.
"It was clearly the worst phase in her life. She had lost early in the Olympics and it had wasted months and years of hardwork. Gopi sir wasn't with her anymore and she was soon to have surgery to get things back on track... She didn't really know what to do," Kashyap recalled the tough times.
Saina reunited with her childhood coach after winning the 2017 World Championship medal, something her husband feels was important before she approached the coach to get back into the fold. "My wife is a perfect Haryanvi Jatni, if you know what I mean. She is just too headstrong and proud. She desperately wanted to go back to Gopi sir and say sorry. She needed him badly but she was too stubborn to admit it and open to him."
With Agency Inputs