Since her bronze-winning accomplishment in Tokyo, the nation has been debating if two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu is India’s greatest sportsperson of all time.
In an exclusive interview with SportsAdda, former badminton player and now a coach, Vimal Kumar has given his opinion on the ongoing debate and said that people should wait before giving her the title of Greatest of all time.
“Hold your horses, let’s enjoy the moment. The debate can wait,” he tells SportsAdda.
“She has a long way to go. She is very young, and her achievements are very creditable. So, the title of the Greatest comes later,” the former chief national coach added.
The 1986 Asian Games bronze medallist also provided a perspective on Sindhu’s achievement.
“Here in India, we tend to make things big and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t really believe in these awards either. What I do believe is that Sindhu is very talented, capable, and can really play well and she should focus on winning the gold at the next Olympic Games. I want her to remain grounded and do her best to achieve her targets,” he quips, adding, “I can only comment on whether she is the greatest or not after her retirement.”
In his career, the 55-year-old Vimal Kumar has seen many talented players, not as fit as Sindhu.
“She is very good physically. She can also manage the load factor compared to other Indian girls. Badminton can be a physically demanding game and in modern badminton, it requires going through a lot of fitness programs and camps. So being able to withstand all those physical rigours is a plus factor for Sindhu while many of our other girls get injured while pushing their limits.”
Sindhu has had two coaches for two different Olympic Games— Pullela Gopichand in 2016 and Park Tae Sang now. Being a coach himself, Vimal Kumar does not give much importance to the role of a coach. He thinks it is limited to 20 per cent of an athlete’s performance, the remaining 80 per cent goes to the athlete.
“About 80 per cent of the credit goes to the athlete. In the last two years, Park has helped her in teaching variations, strokes, and other such technical things. So, Park and his team deserve a lot of credit. But in my opinion, the majority of the credit goes to the athlete herself. You must have the ability to practice all these things.”
On being asked if Sindhu did the right thing by leaving the Gopichand Academy and practice at the Gachibowli Stadium for the Tokyo Olympics, Kumar downplayed the controversial issue saying there is nothing personal about it.
“Once you are at the elite level, you want to learn more things. So, athletes try to move on and change coaches. In tennis, you’ve seen players like (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal, and (Novak) Djokovic have changed their coaches many times. So, this is a very common thing for an athlete. Just like a student goes through phases like schools, colleges, and universities, the athlete does the same thing to grow and learn many aspects of the game. There is no need to make it personal. Sindhu has learned a lot from Gopichand; she is also now learning a lot from Park right now.”
India has had many badminton legends, including Vimal Kumar himself but the Indian shuttlers tend to go for foreign coaches, like athletes of other disciplines.
But the co-founder of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy thinks Indian coaches have done decently, despite the trend for foreign coaches.
“In the singles category, I think our athletes have done well with Indian coaches, no doubt. When the coaches from a higher level come to coach, it lifts the morale of the players. For instance, we have former Olympic Medallist Mathias Boe coaching the doubles team. So, we definitely need international coaches. At the elite level, an athlete goes through many coaches from where one benefits from. Same with Sindhu, going to Park benefitted her,” he analyses.
Kumar, who had competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, expressed his disappointment at the doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty being knocked out of the quadrennial event and felt that they were unlucky to have missed out on a podium finish.
“Satwik and Chirag are very good. In fact, they are the only team to beat the eventual Olympic gold medallists. It is very unfortunate, and one can call it bad luck as well. They are still very young and have a lot to prove. So, I’m very hopeful of them doing well in the coming years.”
Meanwhile, Vimal Kumar went on to address the elephant in the room -- Hyderabad being the preferred destination of aspiring shuttlers in the country.
“I don’t agree with that view,” he snaps back. “I don’t think it works like that. The National training centre may be in Hyderabad. But if you see, many big names like Prakash Padukone are from Bangalore. Saina Nehwal became World No.1 when she trained from Bangalore. We have good players from different parts of the country. So, it comes down to facilities. There should be a good team and good facilities available to support the athletes.”
Featured photo: BAIMedia/RashtrapatiBhavan