Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's three cheers for Pullela Gopichand

NEW DELHI: Former badminton star Pullela Gopichand is going to be the most decorated Indian sportstar in terms of National awards after his name was recommended for Dronacharya award on Monday. Gopi has previously won the Arjuna award (1999), the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2001) and the Padma Shree (2005). For a non-cricketer, it's a staggering achievement.

"As with most of the awards that I have won, the gravity has yet to sink in. What I have always tried is to win in the tournaments that I have played in. But I am very happy to have won. It's a big honour for me and winning the award bring more responsibility for me," Gopi said on the sidelines of the draw ceremony of the Badminton World Championships in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Having himself performed at the highest level during his playing days and now associated with a top-10 player, Gopi has kept his work ethic simple. "It has been God's grace and simple work. I kept doing what I felt was right and would go by the old idiom that hard work pays, but a little bit of luck sometimes helps," he added. Gopi looked pretty pleased with the form of his ward, Saina Nehwal, going into the World Championships.

"We are taking it step by step. Semifinal would be good target to have. Overall it's a good draw for her at the World Championships. It likely to get tougher from the pre-quarterfinals onwards. "Saina has been consistent and there are at least ten players who play at the same level. It's only about that day being yours," he added.

Gopi also praised India's mixed doubled pair of Jwala Gutta and Diju Vliyaveetil and said they could upset the world's best on their day. His pick for the men's championship was Chinese Lin Dan but warned that Indonesian Taufik Hidayat could spring a surprise.
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