The 46-year-old has donated Rs 25 lakhs in central and state funds to fight the pandemic.

The Indian national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand spoke in length about the current nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. He also reflected upon how his sport has been impacted due to the same and the hullabaloo around the status of the Olympic Games that was earlier scheduled to take place in July-August 2020.

On the other hand, Gopichand joined in the monetary fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in our country. He has contributed Rs 15 lakhs to the PM-CARES Fund and Rs 5 lakh each to the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state governments. He took a very mature stance about the ongoing situation as the coach remarked, “I am just spending time with the family. Doing my bits of yoga and meditation and trying to maintain a fitness regime apart from interacting with the players. I’m using the time well and not complaining about the lockdown at all.”

However, Pullela Gopichand was aware of how people belonging to a certain economic background are adversely affected due to the same. He stated, “The people who are struggling are the daily wagers and agricultural farmers who don’t have a saved income in hand. There is definitely a lot of them who will be suffering and it is our responsibility to take care of them. For the rest of us who are from the middle-class, it’s okay. It’s just a few months out of your life and careers can come back once things get back to normal.”

The 46-year-old had a positive outlook towards how the notable shuttlers who are coached by him would be enduring the lockdown. He observed, “For most athletes who have been part of sport for a while, they realise that injuries are a part of it and every time they are injured, they’ve probably been out for a couple of months. So they could just treat this as a long injury break.”

In ideal circumstances, Gopichand would have been very busy in this part of the year as the qualification tournaments for the Olympics would have been underway. However, the mega-tournament has been postponed to the next year. Accordingly, the Badminton World Federation has also declared that all scheduled tournaments until July stand suspended. Gopichand asserted, “We don’t have tournaments at least for the next three months. We are looking at tournaments only around August or September. Let’s see how long this lockdown continues and how quickly we can get back to our normal lives and then decide.”

“For now we have three weeks of lockdown which I think is okay. If the Olympics were postponed only by a few months I would have been concerned about players’ practice but since it’s a year we still have time. It is the same situation for most players around the world so it’s an even playground. Right now the priority is the health of our friends, family, society and the country and so we can decide later about sports.”

The qualification tournaments to the Olympics have been impacted due to coronavirus too. Hence, there is genuine concern about how the organizing body manages to reschedule multiple competitions to suit with the new start date of the games that will be held in Tokyo.

Gopichand shared his doubts about how the logistics could be re-arranged once it is business as usual. The International Olympic Committee has set a new qualification deadline of June 29, 2021. The respective sporting bodies are now tasked to abide by that and layout their events according to the given date. Gopichand affirmed, “I don’t think we are getting back to normalcy very quickly. Even when we do we will need to give about a month and a half for visas, travel arrangements and scheduling.”

“I would say let’s just stay positive and as fit as we can be. Players always complain that they don’t have time to do certain things at home and so let’s use this time to do all that. This is a problem much bigger than sport. It has not spared any nation, so we need to take it one step at a time.”

Pullela Gopichand concluded as he said to HT, “It was something that was unexpected, completely out of anybody’s control. Let the new qualification paths come in and then we can decide.”

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