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Pullela Gopi Chand

India's sole badminton entry in the Sydney Olympics of 2000, Pullela Gopi Chand is the best known Indian in the international badminton circles after Prakash Padukone. That is an achievement in itself. Indian badminton had lost its way after the retirement of Prakash Padukone and then suddenly, on the scene, arrived this youngster from Hyderabad, a lean, thin, almost gaunt in face, but with tremendous possibilities.
It has indeed been a great jump for a man who started playing for his country from 1991 when first selected against Malaysia. He has since then represented the country in three Thomas Cup and as many World Championships. His record is a recommendation in itself. He has won gold medals in the SAARC Tournaments in Vijayawada in 1996 and in Colombo in 1997, a silver medal in the team event and a bronze in the highly competitive singles of the Commonwealth Games. His most praiseworthy achievement came in the Indian Grand Prix in Delhi in 1997 where in a world class field, he stunned one top player after another and finished as a losing finalist. In addition, he has won the Toulouze Open in France and the Scottish Open in Scotland, both in 1999. He also won the Asian Satellite tournament held at Hyderabad in 1999 and was runners-up in the Austrian Open and German Grand Prix played in 199S and 1999 rrespectively.
Born at Nagandla in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh on 16 November 1973, Gopi Chand studied at St. Paul's School in Hyderabad and joined A.V College for his graduation. He then took a degree in Public Administration. A product of Bangalore based BPL Prakash Academy, he won his first match at the age of 12 in the National Talent Search Programme at Delhi. Since then he has not looked back. His progress has indeed been remarkable, winning the K.K. Birla Foundation Award in 1998 and the Player of the Decade award, an Andhra Pradesh Government honour in year 2000. Earlier in 1994, he suffered a serious knee injury while playing National Games Hi Pune, which kept him away from the game for six months, but the fighter in him made a remarkable comeback to occupy the centre-stage of Indian badminton.
On the way to maturing to a national and international competition, Gopi Chand won the singles and doubles (with brother Raja) at the Inter-School Competition in 1986. He was to lead the school team the next year and later on entering the University, led the Indian Combined Universities team in 1990 and 1991. He has won all major ranking tournaments in India from 1996. He is the National Badminton Champion since 1997 and won two gold and one silver in the National Games at Imphal in 1998. The same year he led the Andhra Pradesh team to victory in the Rahmatulla Cup.
India's most sought after player and President of the All India Badminton Players Association, Gopi Chand has led the national team in the Thomas Cup matches held in 1998 and 2000 and the World Championships in 1997 and 1999. He was the man responsible for taking India into the main round of the Thomas Cup after a gap of twelve years and in the final round in Kuala Lumpur he battled it alone. In fact in the crucial semi-final against Korea, he won the first match against the top Korean singles player, Shon Seung Mo, winning the match in two games and gave India a 1-0 lead. That India went on to lose 1-4 is altogether a different matter. Curently ranked 7th in the world, Gopi Chand made his mark at the Sydney Olympics by scoring a win over Ukraine's Vladislav Druzchenko but lost to Hendrawan of Indonesia in the next round.
Presently employed with Indian Oil Corporation as Assistant Manager (Sales), Gopi Chand plays for a German club three months a year to improve his game. During his international career of less than ten years, he has beaten a number of world-ranked stars including Olympic champion Allen Budi Kusuma and Larsen among others.

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