Coach of the Year: Vimal Kumar, S Raman make a difference

Vimal Kumar with Saina Nehwal. Prakash SINGH/AFP

From Vimal Kumar guiding 18-year-old Lakshya Sen to five titles to S Raman's role in the rise of G Sathiyan, here are the nominees for the Coach of the Year award.

ESPN India Awards 2019: Full coverage

Vimal Kumar

Coach to Lakshya Sen, Vimal Kumar deserves much of the credit for the 18-year-old Indian's stupendous year on the circuit -- five titles in seven tournaments in 2019. Lakshya won his first title of the year at the Belgian International in September and followed it up with wins at Dutch Open Super 100 and SarrLorLux Super 100 in October before claiming the Scottish Open title in November and the Bangladesh International Challenger in December. He moved up from No. 71 in the world to No. 32 by the end of the year.

Related: Lakshya Sen levels up in Denmark amid new coach and household chores

Pullela Gopichand

From producing two Olympic medallists in Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, Gopichand pushed further into unchartered territory with Sindhu becoming India's first badminton world champion in August last year. Sindhu bulldozed over her opponent Nozomi Okuhara in what was the most one-sided final in the history of the tournament and brought home a World Championship gold, a behemoth of a competition in bragging rights, carrying the most ranking points along with the Olympics.

Related: Gopichand, coach of the decade for India's badminton renaissance

Sjoerd Marijne

Despite being shunted between roles in the Indian men's and women's hockey teams over the past few years, Dutch coach Sjoerd Marijne has managed to lead in his current role as women's team coach with sufficient clarity and a good measure of results. He shepherded the team to a 3-1 win over Japan in the FIH Series Finals in June and also saw the team through to a Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification.

Related: You dream about scores like these - Marijne hails India's win vs U.S.

RB Ramesh

Chennai-based chess trainer RB Ramesh has earned a reputation for turning young teen minds into potential champions. His students had a terrific 2019, in a further endorsement to his already-celebrated skills. His most famous student, 14-year-old R Praggnanandhaa became the U-18 world champion and a joint winner at the London Chess Classic. Among his other students who found success in 2019 were Bharat Subramanium, who turned International Master at 11 years and eight months, and Aravindh Chithambaram, who last year became the first Indian to simultaneously hold national titles in all three formats -- classical, rapid and blitz.

Related: Praggnanandhaa: The boy who could be king

S Raman

G Sathiyan's long-time coach S Raman has fashioned the player from Tamil Nadu, who was dawdling at No. 176 in July 2016, into the first Indian to break into the top 25 in the world in July 2019. His rise was preceded by a clutch of wins over top-20 ranked players, including that against world No. 4 Tomokazu Harimoto. A sixth-place finish at his first-ever Asian Cup appearance also made him the only Indian to feature in last year's World Cup that followed.

Related: Hurricane and new rubber: How Sathiyan found his second wind