Gail made her long-awaited badminton comeback as Britain’s first ever nationwide league, the National Badminton League (NBL), kicked off on the evening of Monday 6th October. As part of the new Team Derby set up, Gail was paired with GB Development Squad member, Chris Coles, in the mixed doubles to take on Birmingham Lions at the National Indoor Arena in the city.
Great Britain No.1, Rajiv Ouseph took the first of five rubbers for Team Derby and Germany’s European bronze medallist, Karin Schnaase, made it 2-0 on the night. Gail and Chris took to the court knowing that a victory over the Lions’ Alyssa Lym and Nico Ruponen would settle the tie in Derby’s favour. The pressure was on for the pair to finish the job but they met stiff opposition and after a tight match were edged 3-2. With the momentum now firmly with Birmingham, the Lions’ comeback continued and they went on to run out 3-2 winners on the night.
Fresh from the battle, Gail had plenty to say about the inaugural NBL: “With it being so long since I played competitively, I was more nervous than I thought I’d be but it was fantastic to be part of a team again. The new scoring system is so quick and it’s been difficult for all the players to get used to the new format.”
“Having said that, the new system really excites the crowds and we all feed off that. The fans were brilliant and, if we continue to get good crowds, the NBL will be a real spectacle and a great boost for badminton in the UK. People really should give it a go if they have the chance – the atmosphere’s terrific, with the crowd chanting, and the pace of the action is so fast. There were a lot of kids having a great time on the night and it’s a lovely event for families.”
“It was fun to mix with my teammates, something I’ve missed since retiring. In fact, I don’t know the youngsters that well as they came through after I retired. I keep an eye on the badminton circuit and know who’s doing well but it was nice to get to know them. I can tell you, there’s some real talent in the NBL.”
“To be honest, my form was a bit erratic and I do feel like I let the side down a bit. My game with Chris was perhaps the turning point of the evening and, although it was close, I can’t help but look at my own performance. I’ve not played much at all lately and I find it difficult balancing all the things I have going on with getting in enough practice.”
“I’d love to play and practice more and potentially I could be really quite good again. If I could improve, it would definitely help Team Derby and I’ve got a lot of experience to pass on. Finding the time is tough but I resolve to get as much court time as I can between now and my next match against Loughborough Sport.”
“There aren’t many Mums on the badminton circuit and I can see why. It is a lot simpler for a Dad to commit full time to badminton and, like in so many other areas, women don’t tend to get the support they need. I’m joking, of course, but maybe they need a crèche at every badminton venue!”
Being a busy young Mum, time is indeed a precious commodity for Gail – when we spoke to her she was navigating both a pram and a dog through a muddy cow field near her home. But as ever, she saw the funny side “Maybe I should see if the cows will practice with me!”
Gail’s next on court at the Sir David Wallace Arena at Loughborough University at 7.30pm November 3rd. With tickets so reasonably priced for the whole NBL, they look set to be snapped up quickly, so to book your seats for any event between now and late April 2015 visit http://tickets.sky.com/Badminton/National-Badminton-League. To watch the NBL on live TV, keep an eye on the Sky Sports schedules.