Kolkata: National badminton coach Pullela Gopichand does not mind the fierce on-court rivalry between two Olympic medalists Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu as long as it works as a tool of improvement for both the shuttlers.
"If it helps the performance get better, I am happy," Gopichand said at the book launch of 'A History of Indian Sport through 100 Artefacts' by Boria Majumdar.
Saina and Sindhu were in action yesterday when they teamed up for their employers Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) in a doubles rubber at the 38th PSPB inter-unit badminton championship in Bangalore.
Although the PV Sindhu-Saina Nehwal pair went down fighting against doubles specialist pair of N Sikki Reddy and Aparna Balan, the handful of spectators present witnessed a rare partnership between the arch-rivals. Sindhu-Saina has earlier teamed up to play doubles in Uber Cup.
"Saina has had some good performances. She is on her way to recovery, hope she comes back stronger," Gopi came to her former ward's defence when asked about her poor form.
"We have the World Championships coming up. That will be a good tournament to win. Overall, we will have an Olympic medal activity. Every year, the World Championships and the All England will be the two most prized positions along with the other Super Series events."
Having tasted bronze in London and a silver in Rio, Gopichand hoped Tokyo has better results in store for India.
"There is still time. It's been a tough journey till now and it will get more tougher because the benchmarks have gone higher. I hope that we will be able to achieve better results next time than what we did last time."
Looking back at his journey with Sindhu, he said: "In 2010, I came back from the Asian Games, Sindhu barely managed to win Sub-junior Nationals. I realised I was not really focussing much on her. I asked her to turn up at 4.15 am so I get an hour with her."
The Olympic medal is reward for six years of hardwork.
"It's that seven years of consistent effort, that conviction that has yielded the result. I am so grateful about it."
He further spoke about how sports in India can grow by making it "system-supported, coach-led and athlete-centric".
"For any sport to come up in India, it should be system- supported, coach-led and athlete-centric... It is always people first, programmes next. Infrastructure and facilities come third.
"But we often start with infrastructure first and that's why we have had great stadiums without any players being produced. But if we have great coaches, we do not need great facilities to produce players," Gopichand who had placed India on top in badminton with his success with Saina and then Sindhu said.
Gopicand further lamented that Indian are a very administrative driven at many places.
"Sometimes when players become successful, the development initiative becomes successful athlete led. Again successful athlete-centric programmes turn out to be disasters."
Asked about his daughter Gayatri, who won a double crown in Junior Grand Prix in Jakarta, Gopichand said: "It is too early to say if she (Gayatri) is the next best thing. She is good but its too early but I am happy she enjoys the sport."
Gopichand held out hope for the reigning women's national champion Rituparna Das.
"She (Rituparna) is in the top-50 (in the world). It is a good position to be behind Saina and Sindhu. She is the next highest ranked players in the country. There is still time when she can reach the top ten in the world. I am sure she is somebody who is working hard and will have success in the future," the national coach concluded.