Q&A: Badminton player Gail Emms
PUBLISHED: 11:30 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013
Badminton player Gail Emms, 31, has been world No 1 at mixed doubles, All England Champion, Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist. Now retired, she is the first ambassador for BADMINTON England
When did you start playing badminton?
I first picked up a racket when I was three or four years old. My parents were members of a badminton club and it became part of our lives. I have represented Hertfordshire since I was probably 16 or 17, because I was born in Hitchin.
What made you decide to become ambassador for BADMINTON England and support the European Badminton Championships, and what does it involve?
I think it would be rude to walk away from the sport. Badminton has supported me so much in everything I have wanted to achieve and I believe in a couple of the girls who are coming through. I mentor them and from a player point of view help them improve. I want to support our British sports stars and I'm promoting the fact that we have got sport in our country.
Are there any Olympic hopefuls you have your eye on?
We have got Gabby White, 18, who has more skills than I ever had, and there are a couple of other girls and a boy. It's really, really encouraging. We have got London 2012 coming up and we have got top level competitors in this country. Hertfordshire is going to benefit so much from the Olympics, being so close to London, and we should embrace it.
Were your badminton aspirations supported at school?
Badminton wasn't one of the school sports. I was a hockey girl and we were really, really successful. I'm sure the teachers would have liked me to settle down and study more. It was very difficult during A-levels because I was travelling all over the world in championships. Now they are really proud of me.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight was definitely going to the Olympics. It's always been a dream of mine since I was a young girl. It felt great when I was walking around in my tracksuit, and the fact I won a medal. I never in a million years thought it would happen to me.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a professional sports player?
It's the most amazing life, but you have to be able to deal with the lows as well as the highs. And when it's cold and windy outside and you have to go outside to train - people who will do it are the people who will make it. It's that mental toughness. If you can say you have put 100 per cent into it you can be really proud, whatever happens. What's meant to be is meant to be, but you have to give everything. There is no second best.
If you could change something about yourself, what would it be and why?
I would change two things - my hands and feet. My feet are just so messed up from my sport and my hands because I bite my nails. Now I have retired I will also look to lose my competitiveness a little bit because I'm scaring people!
What is your favourite place in Hertfordshire and why?
I really love St Albans. I went to the park next to the abbey recently and it was absolutely beautiful. It was a clear day and I went with friends and chatted for ages. It was just beautiful.
The European Badminton Championships are split over two events - the team event which was held in Liverpool in February this year, and the individual event which will be held in Manchester in April 2010. Details can be found at www.europeanbadminton.com