Former All-England champion and national head coach Pullella Gopichand has revealed that his protege Saina Nehwal's decision to leave his academy in 2014 to join Prakash Padukone's facility in Bengaluru remains 'a mystery' to him, adding that the move wasn't beneficial to either him or the player.
In the chapter titled 'Bitter Rivalry', Gopichand reveals how miserable he felt when Saina decided to join Padukone's academy to train under Vimal Kumar in Bengaluru after 2014 World Championship.
"It was as if something very dear was being taken away from me. Earlier, I had literally begged her (Saina) not to go. But by then she had been influenced by others and had already made up her mind. While I didn't want to hold her back and stall her progress, I knew this was something that wasn't beneficial for either of us," Gopichand revealed in the book, co-written by sports historian Boria Majumdar and senior journalist Nalin Mehta. The grapevine was that Saina believed that Gopichand was focussing more on PV Sindhu.
"Yes, I indeed had other players to look after and Sindhu had made serious progress in the two years between 2012 and 2014. But I had never intended to neglect Saina," Gopi said.
But what hurt him more was the role he felt that Padukone, Vimal or Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) official and former Olympian Viren Rasquinha could have played.
"May be Viren or Vimal or Prakash sir could have spoken to her. I don't know why they didn't. In fact, they encouraged her to leave Hyderabad. It is a mystery to me why Prakash sir has never said anything positive about me while I have always looked up to him as my role model," said Gopi.
Saina had a harrowing time at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she lost in an early round and was carrying an injury for which she had to undergo surgery.
"It was clearly the worst phase in her life. She had lost early in the Olympics and it had wasted months and years of hard work,” said former CWG gold medallist P Kashyap.