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Gail Emms in the Guardian

Rabu, 17 Mei 2006 18:17:08
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You and your partner Nathan are a great double act. Any romance?

I'm always asked this. There's no romance. We're more like an old married couple, nagging and bickering. I've known Nathan since I was about 13. At first, I thought he was weird - very skinny and odd looking. But we were just awkward teenagers then. Later, when I was 16, I needed a partner for a tournament so, trying to act cool, I asked Nathan. He said 'yeah, all right' and that was the most I said to him then. We broke up when I went to university, but came back together in 2001. We've been through so much over the last five years and won silver at the 2004 Olympics in Sydney and gold at the Commonwealth Games this year.

Has your boyfriend ever been jealous?

People always say 'I bet they've done it', and it must be hard for a partner to hear that. I spoke to a boxer at the Commonwealth Games, in March, who said he wouldn't be able to cope if he was my boyfriend. But it's not like we're dancers and he's picking me up and touching me. We're not Torvill and Dean. That would be worse. It was only ever awkward when I stayed with Nathan and his girlfriend in Denmark when we were playing there. Maybe that was tough for his girlfriend. Fortunately, my boyfriend, a policeman, is very understanding.

Is it true your mum played football for England?

She played at the women's World Cup in Mexico in 1971. She had big blonde ringlets and I think the photographers fancied her as they nicknamed her the 'blonde bombshell'. There are some great photos of her playing that make me smile whenever I see them. She and my dad then separated when I was quite young. Mum still plays badminton and tennis, goes running every day and cycles everywhere. She even plays cricket for a men's team. I suppose my competitive edge comes from trying to beat her.

What's the worst job you've had?

After university I had no idea what I was going to do for a career. I ended up working in bars and as a waitress for a couple of years, which wasn't what I had in mind. Even though I had started playing badminton when I was three, I never thought about playing professionally while I was growing up. I needed a kick up the arse! That came in 2000 when I was watching the Sydney Olympics. Despite not training much, I'd only just missed out on qualifying. I thought: ' You silly cow, if you'd have worked harder you could have been there.' I saw Simon Archer and Jo Goode win bronze in the mixed doubles and was inspired. That summer was the most important of my life. I started to train very hard and people noticed. Once I made it into one of the two top British pairs, my funding increased, I won more prize money and, suddenly, I found I could make a living from badminton.

How did success at the Olympics affect you?

The few months after were the weirdest of my life. Nathan and I were invited to lots of parties, we became friends with Linford Christie and were approached for TV shows like A Question of Sport and They Think It's All Over. We thought it was brilliant and wanted to do it all. But we soon learnt that it's impossible to party and train. Our form deteriorated. That's when you realise you're not a professional partygoer, you're a badminton player. If you stop getting results people will quickly forget about you. When you arrive at training thinking 'I've got too much champagne in me', as I once did, it has to stop.

Any other famous friends apart from Linford Christie?

I do have a few now, which is quite funny. However, even though I don't normally like footballers, it would be great to meet David Beckham. I was once in a nightclub where there were a lot of footballers and I was introduced to one who must have been only about 21. Instantly, he looked at me as though I was trying to pull him. I was so angry. I thought: 'Who is this %@!#$&ty little footballer and how dare you look at me like that? I've achieved more in my career than you could ever dream of.'

I hear you get free meals at McDonald's.

After the Olympics, they sent us both a letter saying 'well done for winning a medal and here's this card for free food'. I have to confess I use it when I 'm hung over. I'm not a fussy eater, which is a problem when I'm trying to watch my weight. I'm a big fan of fish-finger sandwiches with cheese slices and ketchup. Delicious! I'm still a student at heart.
Interview by Oliver Price

Are you now more fashion-conscious on court?

I have noticed that the kit I now receive does seem to be getting smaller, for whatever reason. Sometimes I think: ' How can I play in this? It's indecent.' But if you're a sports woman it's something you have to put up with. People want you to show as much flesh as possible. Sadly we don't all have bodies like Maria Sharapova. I don't know how people can play with huge earrings and make-up on. Don't they sweat? If I had make-up on, it would go everywhere. I can't compete with tennis glamour, but if Armani want to design some badminton kit for me, I'm available.

What next?

I'm focused on Beijing in 2008. We were so close to winning in Athens and it would be great to end my career with an Olympic gold. I'll be 31 then so it will definitely be the right time to stop playing. After that, I'd love to get involved with London 2012, in some way.

(Author: The Guardian, Tuesday 9 May 2006.
Interview by Oliver Price, Sunday May 7, 2006)

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