Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gail's into a Glamorous Racket

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Gail's into a Glamorous Racket

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SMITH

GAIL EMMS wants to take badminton from the church hall to the catwalk by winning gold for Britain tonight with mixed doubles partner Nathan Robertson.

The pair face China's Olympic champions Jun Zhang and Ling Gao in today's final but already the pair have made an impact on these Games with their slick looks and fighting spirit.

Emms, who posed for a Sunday tabloid glamour shoot in the build up to these Games, has been hailed as badminton's Anna Kournikova.

She takes the comparison as a compliment but the self-styled "bubbly blonde" would rather be mentioned in the same breath as Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis queen who took Wimbledon by storm.

The difference, as she points out, is that Sharapova is not just a goodlooker but a winner to boot.

Victory would inevitably raise Emms's profile as a glamorous sports celebrity. The 27-year-old from Bedford is already sponsored by Hi-Tec and other companies will be clamouring to come on board if she and Robertson win British badminton's first ever Olympic gold.

But there's another payoff to victory that is close to Emms' heart and that is ridding her sport of its image of being a genteel pastime played by those who like their racket sport featherbedded with shuttlecocks.

"It needs a big shake-up" she said.

"Badminton is too often associated with the village hall and that drives me mad.

"Yes, it is played in village halls, and church halls, and sports centres, which is good. It is a very popular sport at that level.

"But it is only when people see badminton at the highest level that they realise how exciting it can be.

"Something needs to be done to attract more people to the big matches. It needs to be given a bit of street cred and there is no reason why that shouldn't happen because its a bloody hard sport to play. …

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