Indian culture regards the guru or teacher with paramount reverence. A good pupil is supposed to regard his or her guru as being on par with their parents in the order of importance. So, it was wonderful to see PV Sindhu thank her coaches before everyone else after winning the BWF World Championships 2019.
Pullella Gopichand has been a mentor of Sindhu for a long time but the 24-year old shuttler seems to have benefitted enormously from the guidance of another person who joined her in April this year. That person is Kim Ji Hyun – a decorated former South Korean player. With Pullela Gopichand having to look after the entire group of Indian players, her job is to focus on Sindhu and Saina Nehwal.
The 44-year old was a player of great repute in her day. Her crowning achievement came in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima where she won the gold. But this wasn't the only medal that came the way of Sindhu's newest guru.
Kim had also become the World Junior Champion at the 1989 World Championship. Unfortunately for her, she couldn't achieve the same distinction at the senior level. But she has guided her protégé Sindhu to the World Championship title and that must feel very sweet for the Korean.
People who saw Sindhu's matches would have noticed the huge contrast between the body language of her two coaches. While Gopichand remained calm and stoic, Kim looked highly animated and seemed to be deeply invested in every point that Sindhu played.
This intensity on the courtside from the former South Korean champion may be a sign of her strong drive for success. Her comments about Sindhu before the tournament are a case in point.
"The way she plays, I feel it's not smart enough. I mean, at the top level, you have to be smart. It has to be a combination, like your technique, and hitting and mentality," Kim told the official website of the BWF World Championship.
These comments may appear a tad harsh coming from a coach but they probably show her desperation to turn Sindhu into a world beater. In the mid-games and inter-game intervals, she could be seen and heard not only telling the Indian badminton queen what to do but also motivating her and boosting her confidence. She talked about this aspect of coaching in her interview as well.
"The no.1 factor is trust in each other. If you don't trust each other, what's the point? You have to believe in yourself, and you have to believe in your player. Always stay positive. No matter what, you have to create a positive (atmosphere) for your player."
Kim also outlined the areas that need to be worked on for her ward to become better in the same interview. "Sindhu's powerful and has a good physique, but I feel she has to develop more skills.
"There are so many skills she has to work on, especially net skills and deception. Step by step. We're working on skills, and changing tactics, as you can't use the same tactics over and over again. If you play the same kind of game, you won't have a chance," she added in her interaction with BWF website.
And Kim didn't just talk the talk but walked the walk as well. In the BWF World Championships this year, Sindhu's net game looked flawless and played a key role in her victory over Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yufei and eventually, Nozomi Okuhara. One could also see a clear improvement in her tactical acumen. The way she made Okuhara run around the court and dominated the front court herself is an example of that.
The training style of Kim is also not run of the mill. The former Asian Games champion described the unique way in which she gets her players to practice.
"I devise some funny exercises, so it's not the same things over and over again. I have to integrate more skills. I create more exercises that make the players think. Sometimes we have lunch or dinner together."
It was in 2001 that Kim ended her career with a silver medal on her home soil in the Korean Open. Since then, she has been a leading coach and has even been with her country's national team.
Earlier in the year, Sindhu had seemed listless and unwilling to fight hard in her matches against top players. Perhaps, it's the combination of motivation and skill training provided by Kim that she has regained her form and reached a new level of success.