She moved mountains on a badminton court to become top of the world.
Now, 10 years after hanging up her racket on the international tour, Gail Emms MBE is looking to scale newer heights as she embarks on a charity mission to conquer Mount Everest and reach base camp.
The 2005 YONEX All England champion and 2004 Olympic silver medallist has often battled adversity throughout her career both on and off a badminton court and admits she is ‘never one to shy away from a challenge’. But surely the prospect of trekking 5,364 metres above sea level in some of the harshest terrain on the planet would be enough to faze even the most robust of wills or competitive spirit?
When it comes Emms, it appears not. In fact there is giddy excitement in her voice, mixed with anticipation.
Speaking to Badminton England, Emms said “When I was playing badminton, I loved trying to be the best in the world even when the odds are stacked against you, and post sport, I knew I couldn’t just sit down and do nothing.
“I have never been one to shy away from a challenge. I believe in getting out of your comfort zone.”
She has certainly done that. Since retiring in 2008 as a legend of the game with European, World and Olympic medals to her name, she has run the London Marathon, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, swam the Serpentine, conquered Mount Toubkal and cycled 100 miles around London.
Trekking to Mount Everest, scheduled for this coming March – just six days after the 109th edition of the All England Open Championships in which she was the last English champion alongside Nathan Robertson – is the toughest challenge to date though.
“Mount Everest is the dream,” Emms says. “I have flown over it, read about it and wondered if I would ever get a chance to see it in real life. Then a charity expedition called me and asked me to come along. It took me 5 seconds to reply yes.
"On the 16th March, I will be flying to Kathmandu to start my adventure."
Gail will be taking on the mission fuelled by charitable intent. SportsAid, Access Sport and Climb Your Mountain will benefit from her hard endeavour and she has personal reason for selecting each to come on the journey with her.
“They are all close to my heart and have all helped me in some way ” she says.
"SportsAid helped me and my family when I was 15yrs old and I am forever grateful for how they kickstarted my badminton. There is no funding for talented sports kids, just the bank of mum and dad, so many kids have to drop out as they cannot afford the coaching, travelling or equipment needed to carry on. That was where SportsAid stepped in to help me.
"Access Sport are a social enterprise charity who do some brilliant supporting inner city areas get access to sports coaches and equipment to help combat crime and gang culture.
"I have had my ups and downs in transition from sport. Climb Your Mountain are a charity dealing with mental health and help organises trips for people, just like myself, who want to sign up to something life-changing. They help young people deal with their issues with outdoor expeditions and mentoring / coaching programmes. They
Emms added “Yes, I am doing it for charity and yes, it has been a personal dream of mine to go to Everest. But I also hope I inspire others to say yes to experiencing life and living it to the full. I believe it keeps you alive and reminds you how wonderful the world is.”
If you would like to support Gail, then please donate – and you can choose which of the charities you would like your money to go to - the link is here: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/gailemmseverest