Kolkata:India has an outside chance of a medal in badminton at the Beijing Olympics, says former All England champion and current national coach, Pullela Gopichand. But for the game to move to the next level, Gopi wants more icons.
"For any game to flourish, you need icons. We need a host of talent who can be brand ambassadors for the game and take it forward. For this, they have to succeed at the international level. Once you are successful, people will sit up and take notice," Gopichand said.
"We still need three to four years to reach that stage. There are some great individual performances. Some of the players like Anup Sridhar and Saina Newal are almost there. They need a little more time and exposure. But we need a clutch of players, a winning combination. It still needs some time, but I am very hopeful," he added.
Speaking about India's chances of an Olympic berth, Gopichand said: "An Olympic medal at Beijing does not look a possibility at this stage. But you never know."
Then he quickly added: "But on the flip side, you have to realise that there is a ray of hope. In Olympics, all the top players cannot participate. See for example only the top two players from China will be present, but in a satellite tournament there could be six top players out of ten. So one upset and you are in semi-final. With the kind of form Anup Sridhar and Chetan Anand have shown these days, we are keeping our fingers crossed."
Asked about the state of infrastructure for the game, he said: "It is in place, but I have always said a lot more is desired if we want to get the kind of result we seek. We need the grassroots to be strengthened. This is something I have been saying for ages, it seems."
Visibility is also is a factor, admitted Gopichand.
"Once you start winning abroad, the sports channels start broadcasting your events. This adds the electronic gloss and creates heroes one would like to emulate. So success and visibility could be a winning combination," he said.
The former All-England Open Champion feels that though there are some sponsors, it is still not enough. "We have a few sponsors in the sports. But that is not enough. We need a lot more patrons. But then as I said it has to be a two way process. I guess we have to wait."