Pullela Gopichand is a former Indian badminton player. Currently, he is the Chief National Coach for the India national badminton team. He won the All England Open Badminton Championships in 2001 becoming the second Indian to achieve this feat after Prakash Padukone. He runs the Gopichand Badminton Academy. He received the Arjuna Award in 1999, the Dronacharya Award in 2009 and the Padma Bhushan India’s third highest civilian award in 2014.
Pullela Gopichand was born on 16 November 1973 near Chirala Town to Mr. Pullela Subash Chandra and Mrs. Pullela Subbaravamma, in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh.
Initially, he was interested in playing cricket, but his elder brother encouraged him to take up badminton instead. His family settled in Nizamabad for a while. He did his schooling from St. Paul’s High School, Hyderabad. He joined A. V. College, Hyderabad and graduated in public administration. He was the captain of the Indian combined universities badminton team in 1990 and 1991.
Pullela was coached by S. M. Arif before Prakash Padukone accepted him at Prakash Padukone academy. He also trained under Ganguly Prasad at the SAI Bangalore. Pullela won his first National Badminton Championship title in 1996, and went on to win the title five times in a row, until 2000. He won two gold and one silver at the Indian national games, 1998 held at Imphal. At the international level, he represented India in 3 Thomas Cup tournaments. In 1996 he won a gold in the SAARC badminton tournament at Vijayawada and defended the crown in the next games held at Colombo in 1997. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games, he won a silver in the team event and a bronze in men’s singles.
In 1999, he won the Toulouse open championship in France and the Scottish open championship in Scotland. He also emerged winner at the Asian satellite tournament held at Hyderabad in the same year, and lost in the final match of the German grand prix championship.
In 2001, he won the All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham. He defeated then world number one Peter Gade in the semi-finals before defeating Chen Hong of China to lift the trophy. He became the second Indian to achieve the feat after Prakash Padukone, who won in 1980.
After retiring from his playing career, Pullela founded the Gopichand Badminton Academy in 2008 after reportedly mortgaging his own house.
Nimmagadda Prasad, a renowned industrialist, donated ₹50 million on the condition that his academy win a medal for India at the Olympics in badminton. The academy produced several badminton players including Saina Nehwal, P. V. Sindhu, Sai Praneeth, Parupalli Kashyap, Srikanth Kidambi, Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt, and Arun Vishnu. Saina Nehwal went on to win the bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and P. V. Sindhu went on to win the silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics and the bronze medal in pandemic-hit 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo July – Aug 2021 and also became the first Indian to win the BWF World Championships. Pullela also served as the official Indian Olympic Badminton Team coach at the 2016 Rio Olympics held in Brazil.