Pullela Gopichand won’t travel with Indian team to Olympics, gives available space to Santosa

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Gopichand, under whose guidance Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu claimed a bronze and a silver medal at London and Rio Games respectively, opted out after the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) cleared only five-members support staff, that includes three coaches and two physios.

In the run-up to the Olympics, Sindhu has been training under Korean coach Tae Sang Park at the Gachibowli Indoor stadium while Santoso has been working with Praneeth. Denmark’s Mathias Boe was appointed to guide Chirag and Satwik in their maiden Games. These four shuttlers will represent India’s challenge at the Games.

“With just one quota available, Gopichand decided to opt out in order to ensure Santosa could be accommodated who has been training with Sai (Praneeth) since the pandemic,” Badminton Association of India (BAI) General Secretary Ajay Singhania told PTI.

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It is obvious that players would prefer to have their respective coaches during the matches. With Gopichand deciding not to go, the Indian badminton contingent will comprise nine members, including three foreign coaches — Santoso, Tae Sang and Boe — and two physios Sumansh Sivalanka and Evangline Baddam (female) and four players.

Last month, the BAI had written to the IOA, proposing a seven-member support staff to accompany the players. However, with strict COVID-19 protocols and an allotted quota of 33% of support staff, only 5-member supper staff members could be cleared.

According to the norms, the number of officials travelling to Olympics cannot be more than one-third of the athlete. However, the sports ministry can allow additional officials at no cost to the government.

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