National coach Pullela Gopichand believes PV Sindhu will be a strong contender for gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but will also become a target after her World Championships triumph in Basel, last month. Gopichand was very impressed with Sindhu’s aggressive game which won her the title.
PV Sindhu will be a strong contender for the women's gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but the 24-year-old's recent World Championship triumph will also make her a target, India's national coach Pullela Gopichand said. It was also an end to Sindhu's agonising runner-up finishes having finished second at the 2016 Olympics, last year's Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and the previous two world championships.
Sindhu is India's most successful female Olympian with her silver from Rio. Gopichand believes Sindhu is next year’s prime candidate for the gold in Tokyo but also knows that she will be marked by the opposition after her recent triumph.
"I think it would be fair to say that she would be one of the big contenders for the gold medal. But having said that, there is competition, and it just gets more for Sindhu because she will be the target, people have a year to plan against her. So, of course she needs to train, she needs to evolve, she needs to add new thinking to the armoury and that's very important," Gopichand told Reuters in an interview.
Shooter Abhinav Bindra remains the only individual gold medallist for the country of 1.3 billion, who are starved of top sporting success outside cricket. In the world championships semi-finals, Sindhu’s aggressive game dismantled China's Chen Yufei 21-7 21-14 while it took her just 38 minutes in the final to see off Okuhara with the Japanese wilting under a barrage of smashes from her opponent.
Gopichand was delighted with Sindhu's aggression and termed the manner of her championship win as "very special". He, however, warned her to continue to evolve ahead of Tokyo and not to write off the competition.
"It will not be fair to say that there is no competition. I think players like (current Olympic champion) Carolina Marin, Tai Tzu-Ying, Ratchanok (Intanon), the Chinese girls, I think there are a lot of players who will be competition and it'll be disrespectful to write off competition. Having said that, I think Sindhu has a good chance and hopefully will come with the better medal than last time," Gopichand said.
Badminton's popularity has grown by leaps and bounds in the country with Saina Nehwal's bronze in women's singles in the London Olympics setting a success path. While the country was toasting the success of Sindhu, the men's sport also got a significant boost when Sai Praneeth won bronze in Basel, it was the first world championship medal for a male shuttler since Prakash Padukone won a bronze medal in 1983.
Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad has produced the likes of Nehwal, Sindhu and Sai Praneeth, where these players have prospered under the watchful eyes of the former All England champion.
"Sai Praneeth did a very important thing. Sai's performance was something I am really happy with. Sai's medal got eclipsed by Sindhu's phenomenal performance. I think what Sai has achieved for men's badminton and the men to actually win a world championship bronze medal is a good starting point to do even better in the future," Gopichand concluded.