A former National champion herself, Pullela Gopichand's wife PVV Lakshmi has been a pillar of support for the Chief coach of Indian badminton. Lakshmi singled out Gopichand's contribution as an important reason for Sindhu's success and also talked about Gopi's sacrifices in his coaching journey.
After PV Sindhu's achievement at the Olympics, India has finally given the credit that was due to Gopichand and his academy. After all, producing two Olympic medalists in 4 years is no simple feat. The 'factory of Indian badminton champions' was however not made in a day, or even a decade, and Gopi has had to face numerous hardships in his journey.
One person who has stood beside him through all those has been his wife PVV Lakshmi - also a National shuttler who represented India in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Lakshmi and Gopichand married in June 2002. Lakshmi said, "It was a love marriage but not many people did know about us," in an exclusive to Mirror.
Lakshmi was India's No 1 female shuttler for a span of eight years when she also won two National titles. "I had won several Indian ranking tournaments," she said. However, she highlighted the conditions under which she had achieved those. Lakshmi said, "The situation was so bad that we could not think too big.
Our targets were only national, there would not be any international ambitions. There would be many hangers-on who would constantly discourage us — 'kuch nahi kar sakte bahar jake' types. “Now no one talks about the nationals, everyone's ambitions are global, Olympics, and world championships.
"Today PVV Lakshmi is not the news. PV Sindhu is,” she remarked as she started talking about the Olympic silver-medalist.
Lakshmi said, "Sindhu has what I didn't have back then - my husband as coach,"
"Sindhu is special because she has Gopi for support. He is her biggest asset. I am not saying because he is my husband but because of the commitment the coach has shown for her. I have no regrets in my career but If I had had a coach as committed as Gopi is, I would have done very well,” reported Mirror.
But, Lakshmi also pointed out to Sindhu's other qualities that have made her the Olympic medalist. Lakshmi said, "She has changed tremendously over the last 4-5 months. She used to be good before also but of late she has improved greatly. She would be most vulnerable when she was winning. The body language was meek and droopy.
She did not know how to close the matches. But she has become mentally and physically strong and has developed aggression. You could see that in the Olympics. I am really proud of her for being the youngest woman medallist of the country."
Lakshmi also described the vision that the Gopichand academy has looked to reach, and the areas where they have brought about a sea of changes in. She said, "What we are trying to do at the academy is to eliminate the difficulties we faced. Back then, the main stadium would be unavailable for months due to political and social events. Once, the entire stadium was shut because the ballot boxes were kept there.
"And then the availability of shuttles. They were quite expensive. We could not even think of physios or masseurs that are available these days. There would be none to advise us how to train and how to prevent injuries. The purpose of starting the academy was to provide all these requirements — physical, infrastructural and technical," reported Mirror.
Speaking about Gopichand and his passion and commitment, Lakshmi added, “He gives his all and expects the same from the students. There is no other passion in his life than coaching. Sometimes he would be so lost in his own world that he would not know who are around him. He would not even know that I am talking to him. I literally have to shake him up. That kind of intensity, focus and commitment... I have never seen in any other such coach.
He lives in literally in the academy - conducting different sessions from 10 year-old to 30-year-olds. He goes there at 4 am returns only after 7 pm with two-hour lunch break. Sometimes, it gets slashed by one hour. We get to spend quality time only for an hour in the evenings.
The family also has a third national shuttler as their daughter Gayathri has picked up the sport. "She is India No 1 in Under 15 and last year, she was the youngest to participate in the junior ABC in Indonesia. Then she was 12. And she had won doubles champion," Lakshmi said.