At Gopichand’s Academy, You Can’t Chicken Out


Telangana: Many shuttlers who got admission into the Pullela Gopichand Academy were vegetarians by birth such as Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap. An ardent follower of the Chinese and their training methods, Gopi felt that Indian food habits were affecting the performance.

Badminton, it seems, is no longer a sport for vegetarians, although many shuttlers who got admission into the Pullela Gopichand Academy were just that.

Interestingly, Saina Nehwal, RMV Gurusaidutt, Parupalli Kashyap, Sai Praneeth – to name a few – had not eaten meat before joining. But the academy has a comprehensive programme on what a shuttler can and cannot eat. The diet is fixed and examined by Gopichand, who at times conducts surprise raids and checks the food that the trainees are eating.

But Gopi was able to convince them and they slowly started eating chicken. It took some time for Saina to be convinced but she too followed suit, and the results began to show. “Eating chicken is essential for the good supply of protein content. It also helps in losing weight and ensures essential supply of vitamins and minerals. Red meat also provides iron which helps to maintain the energy levels. It supplies amino acids which repair muscle tears that usually occur during strenuous training,” said a member of the coaching staff, adding that many used to hesitate to become non-vegetarians.

“Some of the shuttlers were adamant. It required a lot of counselling to convince them but once they started eating, many of them loved it,” he added.

However, the families of many shuttlers were not easily convinced. Some of the players, even, didn’t divulge it to their relatives as it could create embarrassment within the family. But the success of Saina and Sindhu on world stage has proved that this little sacrifice in search of excellence was worth making.

Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu was still playing the final when some netizens began to look her up on Google. Among the most searched terms was “PV Sindhu caste”. Social scientists say that an attempt to appropriate Sindhu’s success on the basis of identity can explain the sudden curiosity.

Sociologist Yogendra Singh said: “Sindhu, for her excellence or achievement, draws nothing from her caste. There are certain groups that are always looking to legitimise their identity. I think this is one of those instances.”

Political commentator Chandra Bhan Prasad said the interest in Sindhu’s caste could be from both upper and lower castes. While caste supremacists want to appropriate her for reasons of “nostalgia”, for middle class families of lower castes, it is a matter of pride.