Meet Lakshmi, the primary girl Olympian from the Gopichand household

Meet Lakshmi, the primary girl Olympian from the Gopichand household


She performed badminton in an period when there was no help system or large cash. The eagerness for the sport saved them going. P. Lakshmi Gopichand is the primary girl Olympian from the then united Andhra Pradesh when she represented India in girls’s singles badminton within the 1996 Atlanta Video games. A feat which was extremely creditable given the standing of the game itself in India and likewise the type of amenities, or lack of them, then.

And, not many are conscious that Lakshmi’s father Krishna Rao was her coach when she received the junior nationwide triple crown earlier than shifting from Vijayawada to Hyderabad in 1993 to hitch Dronacharya S.M. Arif at Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium.

The shuttlers had been by no means certain when the stadium could be closed. It was the common venue for storing the poll packing containers (then) of Normal Elections and for any VIP perform. So, Lakshmi educated alongside together with her sister P.V. Sarada, the 2 had been additionally nationwide girls’s doubles champions.

“When I look back to the Atlanta Games, I consider that experience as the best every in my career. It was not just about competing but also watching the greats from other disciplines especially tennis, athletics, hockey was such a memorable outing for me,” 45-year-old Lakshmi remembers in a chat with Sportstar on the eve of Mom’s Day.

Olympian and shuttler P. Lakshmi Gopichand together with her husband Pullela Gopichand and the 2 youngsters – P. Sai Vishnu and P. Gayathri
at their farmhouse in Hyderabad.   –  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


“Frankly, those were the days when you couldn’t set any targets like making it to the Olympics for the qualifying norms were different and then it was a 128-player draw. But once I earned a career-best rank, World No. 67 towards the end of 1995, I did think of being part of Olympics family,” she says.

“Then, thanks to the support from Shiv Charan of Sri Krisna Jewellers who took care of my boarding and lodging expenses after I spent for the flight tickets I could compete in a couple of tournaments in the European circuit to improve my ranking,” she provides.

Lakshmi is understandably elated that she occurred to be the primary girl Olympian from the Telugu-speaking state. “Definitely, it was never easy though I won’t say it was a great debut having lost in the second round after beating World No. 29 Anne Gibson of UK in the first round,” she says.

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How was the sport then? “Now, you see lot of long rallies with even sub-juniors playing 15-20 rallies with ease. But, in terms of training methods, the basics were the same only difference then being our training methods were raw and more of trial and error method unlike the scientific method now available,” Lakshmi says.

The opposite main facet of recent day badminton is that the gamers can focus extra on their sport as many different topics are taken care off by professionals like the whole help employees guaranteeing that all the pieces is in place.

“Definitely, never thought badminton would reach this level in India. I remember in those days, many fellow players were content if they crossed the first round in the Nationals. I didn’t like that kind of attitude. Then, I used to feel differently and told to my self – we could do it by improved performances,” Lakshmi says.

“Well, if players of that era had the kind of international exposure and training facilities the current generation have, they could have made a bigger impact too,” she says.

“When it comes to putting in the efforts, they were no less hard-working. They only lacked the kind of support system which is in place now,” she provides.

Lakshmi, the mom

How does it really feel to be mom of two youngsters – Sai Vishnu and Gayathri – shifting up the ladder within the age teams in badminton? “We (me and Gopi) just want to ensure they enjoy the game and don’t invite pressure of any kind. Luckily, both of them are hard-working. We don’t interfere too much in their training programmes but ensure they stick to the day’s schedule with all sincerity. Discipline is what we insist at any cost,” she says.

“We are also lucky they are very receptive to suggestions and implement them very quickly. And, hence we don’t push them too hard, like setting goals in terms of winning this title or that one,” she provides.

Reflecting on the postponement of the Video games, Lakshmi says it’s a unhappy state of affairs. “I feel sorry for those senior players who had a chance to making it to original schedule of Tokyo Games this year. Now, one year is a long, long time in an athlete’s career for the whole training programme has to be revisited to start afresh with new Olympics qualifying norms in place,” says the BPCL officer.

The subsequent technology of shuttlers

Lakshmi often travels together with her youngsters.  “It is mostly about travelling with the kids as this is a critical phase in their career, needs the parents’ support. I  take care of their diet and training schedule before a tournament,” she says.

Any administrative position in Gopi Academy? “Right now, no. I am lucky my mother-in-law (Gopi’s mother Mrs. Subbaravamma) takes care of that. If the need arises, then I will step in otherwise I am happy taking care of my kids,” she says.

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Lakshmi additionally feels that Gopi organising the academy in Hyderabad is the largest factor to have occurred to Indian badminton. “We, as players, suffered a lot for wanting decent training facilities. So, our first objective was to see there is no break in training schedule. Honestly, we didn’t set goals like producing a World champion or an Olympic medallist when we started the academy,” Lakshmi factors out.

When requested how she feels when Gopi is criticised, she says, “Initially, I get agitated and even assume Gopi ought to reply. However, quickly I realise what Gopi does – to remain calm and composed – is correct. We believed within the philosophy that if we don’t hurt anybody, it’s truthful sufficient to not fear about something,” Lakshmi says.

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