Hyderabad: Built in 2002 for the National Games and the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, the indoor stadium in Gachibowli, now under Sports Authority of Telangana Sports (SATS) control, has become the main training centre for the four-member badminton contingent that will take part in the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics.
In February this year, the Rio Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu moved out of the SAI-Gopichand Academy and started training at the indoor stadium and since one week, B Sai Praneeth, the men’s singles player, and the doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have also been practicing at this venue every alternate day. This indoor stadium has become a beehive of activity and it will continue to be so till the badminton team departs for Tokyo in the middle of July.
The players are now practicing at the three courts. Sindhu is under the Korean coach Park Tae Sang while Indonesian coach Agus Dwi Santoso is in charge of Sai Praneeth and the doubles Danish coach Mathias Boe is taking care of Satwiksairaj and Chirag. Chief coach Pullela Gopichand is also present whenever Sai Praneeth and the doubles team practice at the indoor stadium. The concept of practicing at the indoor stadium has caught up with the players now.
“It is good to have some practice sessions at the indoor stadium as it will help the players to acclimatise to the big stadium conditions,” said Gopichand.
Incidentally, Sindhu has decided to practice at the indoor stadium even after the Tokyo Olympics. “When we have a facility of international standard, why not use that. If you want to compete against the best players you have to ensure that everything is perfect in training and build up to those events.”
“Wherever we go out to play any major event we do so in bigger stadiums. There are a lot of facilities in Gachibowli where I’m training now. It is a good international stadium and I’m sure I will get used to those big stadiums before going to Tokyo,” Sindhu had said last week.
In fact, the BWF World Championship was held at this venue in 2009, one of the mega badminton events that were held in Hyderabad. Sindhu was then 13 years old and accompanied to the stadium along with her father PV Ramana. The Indian Grand Prix tournament was held here too before being shifted to New Delhi. The Asian Badminton Championship was conducted in 2005 while the Asian Badminton Championship in 2016 apart from the Premier Badminton League. The Hyderabad Open was held here in 2018 and 2019 but could not be conducted last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Saina Nehwal, under Gopichand, had her initial training at the indoor stadium. It was shifted to Gopichand Academy, also at Gachibowli, once it was opened in 2008. The camps for the Beijing Olympics or London Olympics or Rio Olympics were held at the Academy. Saina and Sindhu went on to corner glory by winning bronze and silver medals respectively at London and Rio.
It is a different scenario now. Sai Praneeth also welcomed training at the indoor stadium. “Practicing at big stadiums helps players in getting used to flight of the shuttle. When we played in the Japan Open in 2019 at the same venue where the Olympics will be held, we noticed that the flight of the shuttle was slow at the indoor stadium. At the Academy, the shuttles travel a little faster but at the Gachibowli Indoor stadium it is slower. I have played a lot of PBL matches here at this venue. With A/Cs on, it is a perfect venue for the preparation for the Tokyo Games,’’ said Sai Praneeth, who has been practicing with Indonesian sparring partners and junior players.
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