Unlike the past, Indian athletes now go to Olympics to win a medal, says P Gopichand

Mumbai: Taking a mild dig at yesteryear sportspersons who had appeared in the Olympic Games, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand said that unlike in the past the current lot which has qualified for next month's Rio Games would strive hard to get a coveted medal.

"In my time 90 per cent of the people (sportspersons) would be busy collecting memorabilia (in Olympics). People now go out to compete and win a medal. That's the big change I see. Hats off to the new generation which shows that kind of spirit," said Gopichand in Mumbai on Friday.

 Unlike the past, Indian athletes now go to Olympics to win a medal, says P Gopichand

File photo of Saina Nehwal with her medal from the 2012 Olympics. Getty

Gopi was speaking at the felicitation function organised by his employers, Indian Oil, for him and five others who have qualified for the Games - Inderjeet Singh (men's shot put), Kidambi Srikanth, Manu Attri (men's badminton), Manika Batra (women's table tennis) and Prarthana Thombare (tennis, women's doubles).

Five other Indian Oil employees who have made it to Rio - V R Raghunath, Kothajit Singh, S K Uthappa (men's hockey), Achanta Sharath Kamal (table tennis) and Rohan Bopanna (tennis) - could not be present at the function.

"We will give our best and God willing we will come back with medals. Around 120 sportspersons qualifying for the Olympics is an achievement in itself. I hope we come back with our head held high and by making our country proud," said the former All England men's singles champion.

He also praised the support the sportspersons have received from government agencies like the Sports Authority of India as well as the private corporate sector.

He, however, was cautious about predicting medals in badminton.

"I would only say we have chance for multiple players (to win medals), but it's not going to be easy. Hopefully with our preparations having gone satisfactorily well we will produce some good results," he declared.

Seven Indian shuttlers, including 2012 London Games women's singles bronze medalist Saina Nehwal, will take part in the Rio Games.

"I think all of our players have a chance in badminton.

Saina or Sindhu or Srikanth and in the doubles (men's and women's). It all boils down to how well you do in those few days," he explained.

Two shuttlers - P V Sindhu and K Srikanth - will be making their debut in the sports extravaganza and Gopichand said he would advise them to keep things simple and focus on the job at hand.

"The stage is big and you can very easily be overawed by the circumstances. It's very important to keep your focus on the job and to do the simple, common sense things correctly."

Gopichand said compared to four years ago competitions has become stiffer.

"I think countries like Japan and Thailand have grown stronger now and also Spain which has come up. There have been a few additions to the existing ones. But it's something that keeps happening as time progresses."

Gopichand said Saina's bronze medal show at the London Games has easily been the high point so far in badminton.

"Saina's medal at the Olympics is the highlight so far because it's the first we have achieved as a nation. It was special," said Gopi adding that the shuttlers are set to leave on August 3 ahead of the event that starts on the 11th.

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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2016 20:25:26 IST