Olympic medallist tells Corby pupils hard work will help them achieve their dreams

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An Olympic silver medal winner visited Lodge Park Academy to help inspire students to meet their potential.

Badminton silver medallist Gail Emms was at the school as part of the Be the Best You Can campaign that aims to encourage young people to work hard to achieve their goals.

Bedford-born Gail, who retired from Badminton eight years ago and now has two young children, spoke to children about how her mum had inspired her to strive to become a world number one at the sport.

She told students how she had picked up a racquet aged four and played against her former England footballer mum Jan, who beat her 11-0, and continued to do so until one day when Gail was 12 and she beat her mum for the first time.

They were also given advice on how to juggle GCSEs and A-levels with playing sport at a high level, and how to ensure they had a back-up career in case of injury.

Gail spoke about her 60-hour-per-week training schedule and how it felt to win a silver Olympic medal at Athens and a world championship gold medal.

She said: “At four-years-old I was rubbish at Badminton.

“I couldn’t even hit the shuttle.

“But my mum asked me if I wanted to have another go, and I did. Being beaten 11-0 every time made me want to get better, and I did. It took me eight years to beat her, but eventually I did, and I learned that if you keep going, it will happen.

“My mum is my hero, although when I beat her she threw her racquet and stamped off into a corner and said she wasn’t playing me again!”

Gail also told the pupils about how watching Sally Gunnell win 400m hurdles gold at the 1992 Olympic games provided a female sporting role model for her and a whole generation of sportswomen, at a time when there were almost no GB female sporting success stories.

She said: “I’m 99 per cent happy with my Olympic silver medal but of course there’s a part of me that still wants gold.

“But the medal represents 23 years of hard work and training. I’m just a normal girl from Bedford and I just believed that I could win.

“You stand there on that podium and think of so many times you could have given up but you didn’t.”