Gangtok: Badminton Legend Pullela Gopichand is currently on his first visit to Sikkim to attend the second Governors Cup for Badminton in Gangtok. Gopichand arrived in the state on Monday and was hosted for dinner by Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay at Samman Bhawan.

On June 14, Gopichand attended the state tournament finals and played an exhibition game alongside Sikkim Governor Ganga Prasad and CM Golay. In a heart-warming moment, 85-year-old veteran shuttler Yapchung Kazi also joined Gopichand during the exhibition match.

Addressing the media, Gopichand said he found Sikkim to be very beautiful. He shared, “Feels very nice to be in Sikkim, it’s a beautiful place, the hospitality and warmth of the people is wonderful. To come here for an event like the Governor’s Cup for badminton is something amazing. So many players from different blocks, from different professions participating in this event, is wonderful. I am happy to see this kind of response from the government towards sports. Very encouraging to see the Governor, the Chief Minister, the Speaker participating in a sporting event, being a part of the celebration of a sport.”

Speaking on the potential for growth of badminton in Sikkim, Gopichand shared, “Just yesterday (Monday), Badminton Association of Sikkim General Secretary Sukanta Das and me were talking with the Chief Minister about how talented players from Sikkim will be shown the correct pathways through the Academy (Gopichand’s) and various centres of Badminton Association of India.”

He further shared, “The President and General Secretary of the Badminton Association of Sikkim have done wonderful work. They have always been active members of the Badminton Association of India. They have always tried to promote the sport. Infrastructure is something which we need for the sport. I would like to request the government to look into the aspect of providing infrastructure. Such that the talented young boys and girls of the state can perform at the state and national levels, more and more effectively. At some point play for the country and bring laurels for the country.”

Focusing on the northeast, Gopichand shared, “With the BAI President currently being Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma, they are working to make the association stronger and bringing and putting a lot of work at the grassroots level. Our president is a dynamic leader, through his support we feel that in the coming future both in Northeast and the rest of the country, the players will see a lot of growth.”

On the progress made by the country in the sport, Gopichand shared, “There are many talented players coming in the country from those representing the Men’s team in different championships, who have brought many laurels for the country. They are full of talent and are young. There are a lot of expectations from them. In terms of Doubles as well there are a lot of expectations. In future, we expect them to bring laurels for the country.”

Sikkim CM Prem Singh Golay welcomed Gopichand to Sikkim, claiming it is an honour to have the badminton legend. “We are well aware of the success of Badminton legend Pullela Gopichand who has generated many national and international level badminton players in the country, including himself, being a legend in the sport. Taking this occasion, I would like to share that during our interaction yesterday over dinner, Pullela Gopichand and the Badminton Association of Sikkim have intimated to me about the potential of badminton in Sikkim. Taking the same into consideration, we welcome the move towards sending 10-15 talented badminton players to his academy or any of the Badminton Association of India centres for their training. Identifying such players lies in the hands of the Badminton Association of Sikkim, once they approve of the same, we will be sending such players to such academies of repute as well as ensure that they balance both their studies and sports simultaneously.”

Golay also said that in the upcoming budget session, the government will consider developing a state-of-the-art badminton court and training centre here in Sikkim so that the state can generate more players.

Also Read: In pics: Sikkim celebrates Saga Dawa at Tsuklakhang Palace

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