India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.
March 11, 2001: Gopichand emulates Padukone, wins All-England Championships
Sporting history is laced with injury comeback. Pullela Gopichand did just that, marking his earliest contribution to changing the trajectory of Indian badminton. An Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury, often career-threatening, hampered Gopichand’s career during the turn of the millennium, enough to affect his maiden Olympic campaign in Sydney. That makes his All England triumph, the first after Padukone’s in 1980, that much more special. Despite pain in his knee, a low seeding and a tough draw, Gopichand powered through the tournament beating players like Peter Gade and Chen Hong to win the title.
Pullela Gopichand, seeded 10th and still struggling with his knee issues, wasn’t even considered a dark horse for the tournament, but he rummaged through to help revive Indian badminton with his memorable triumph.
After getting past Singaporean shuttler Ronald Susilo in the opening round, Gopichand pulled off an upset win over English national champion Colin Houghton in the second round.
The possibility of the Indian becoming the champion came when he defeated the then reigning Olympic champion Ji Xinpeng of China in the pre-quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, he crossed paths with the then World No. 1 Peter Gade, a man he had never beaten in two prior meetings. Gopichand ensured he stayed on course by keeping his nerves to beat the Danish ace 17-14, 17-15 to set up a summit clash with China’s Chen Hong.
Though he trailed in the beginning against Chen Hong, he carried the confidence of beating the World No. 1 in the semifinals to emerge a winner, defeating the Chinese 15-12, 15-6 to mark a momentous occassion in Indian badminton.
He would go on to have leave a lasting impression as coach, churning out champions like P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth.