Badminton’s Peter the Great

Peter Gade’s long and illustrious career defines some of the most inspiring badminton moments shared by fans all over the world.  17 years since first stepping into the world podium, […]

Peter Gade’s long and illustrious career defines some of the most inspiring badminton moments shared by fans all over the world.  17 years since first stepping into the world podium, Peter defies borders and he continues to dazzle up there among the brightest stars badminton is very lucky to be graced with. Emzi Regala, Badzine correspondent in Japan, met with Peter Gade, just days before his home event in Denmark.

By Emzi Regala, Badzine Correspondent in Tokyo.  Photos by Badmintonphoto/Patrick Bontant for Solibad.

“There are countless ways of attaining greatness, but any road to reaching one’s maximum potential must be built on a bedrock of respect for the individual, a commitment to excellence, and a rejection of mediocrity.” - Robert LeRoy “Buck” Rodgers, former American baseball player

Peter Gade was a doubles World Junior Champion in 1994.  A serious rival to the never-say-die Sun Jun of China, he catapulted to singles #1 world ranking in 1998-2001.

As his career progressed, his many titles were only part of what fans came to admire about and identify with Peter Gade.  In the 2004 All England men’s singles final, Lin Dan was caught going the opposite direction, no thanks to Peter’s trademark ‘double-action’ push to the far corner of the court. Six years later, in the same All England men’s singles semi-finals court, Malaysian world #1 Datuk Lee Chong Wei could do nothing to answer Peter’s top spin net play that sent the shuttle sitting just on top of the net before crossing over.

Peter Gade’s focus is fixed on his career finale quest for a medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics.  As the 34-year-old Gade makes the rounds of the OSIM BWF Super Series for the final time, his ‘old legs’, as he fondly refers to them, have still delivered two runner-up finishes: the India Open in April and in June’s Indonesia Open Premier Super Series, both against the current world #1 Lee Chong Wei.

To his fans however, seeing Peter play for the final time in their homeland brings both sadness and fond memories.  Japan, barely recovering from this year’s disastrous March earthquake was excited to watch Peter play at the Yonex Open Japan, the 8th of the 12 OSIM BWF Super Series events scheduled this year.  It seemed that it was only yesterday that a dashing young man from Denmark took two Yonex Open Japan titles back-to-back in 1998 and 1999.  That young man grew up to be one of the most respected and beloved shuttlers in the world.  Peter shares his thoughts after he lost to Lee Chong Wei in the semis, at his final Japan Open event.

Badzine International (BZI): How are you feeling today? Tired?

Peter Gade: No, I’m not that tired but of course after two weeks in Asia and two tough tournaments, it could be worse.  I’m really happy about my form but I’m a little bit disappointed today, I could have done better.  In that aspect I’m a bit annoyed now but it’s okay.  It will be better tomorrow.  I’m very happy with the last two semi-finals [China Masters, Japan Open].  But of course I want to get closer to Chong Wei, but I will get there.  There will be more chances.

This is a great Olympic season for me.  A medal at the Olympics is a big goal.  Let’s see what happens, but I’ve been in the semi-finals for the past many tournaments, so I can do it!

BZI: You have a very long career and you’re still up there in the top 3, what’s your secret?

Gade: I’m proud of that.  It’s not easy to keep up with the young guys.  There is no secret other than working really hard.  You have to think about everything, what you’re eating, your diet, planning everything, including sleep.  I have a family: I have two girls, so it is not easy.  I have to plan my time very carefully to be able to practice very hard.  I have to sacrifice a lot but it’s all worth it.  I enjoy pushing myself and I still think it is fun to play.

BZI: Everybody got so emotional with your quarter-final match at the 2011 World Championships against Nguyen Tien Minh. It gave inspiration to some of your Japanese fans, which is very important, especially since many have ‘low morale’ from the disaster brought about by the big earthquake in March.

Gade: It seems everybody got into that match.  I’ve heard many great comments.  Tien Minh played better than he’s ever done.  I had to work really hard.  It was a very good match.  I’ m really happy that we both had a wonderful match.  It brought me another World Championship medal and another shot at Lin Dan. Sometimes something special happens – this match was one of them.

BZI: I’m going to put you on the spot.  Who do you think is the more formidable opponent: Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei?

Gade: Lin Dan is maybe the best player ever in badminton.  On his good days, Chong Wei is also fantastic but he’s a bit more of a machine than Lin Dan.  But both players are fantastic. To comment on another thing, I think that Lin Dan proved through this year’s World Championships that he’s the best player – to win four World Championships and one Olympic gold – I think that’s really great. Chong Wei is also good, but he still needs to improve mentally, but he’s really a strong player.  It is very difficult to compare.  If these two weren’t around for these years, I could have won a lot more tournaments! [laughs]  I’m happy to be part of many great matches against these two, so it’s alright.

BZI: How can a small country like Denmark produce the likes of Peter Gade, who can compete against Asian powerhouses?

Gade: We’re doing well, but still we could do better.  We need more financial support.  China and Malaysia – they have much more money, many more coaches, physios, everything.  I’m proud that a small country like Denmark can still take out the fight but we need more financial support from the government and then we can even do better.

BZI: Is the new Peter Gade coming in soon?

Gade: I don’t know.  We have many good players.  I hope that Victor or Jan or some of the other guys can take over from me.  But they still need to take it up one step. Hopefully they will do better in the future.

BZI: What’s next for Peter Gade?

Gade: I’m looking forward to going home. Take a few weeks off, and then to the Denmark and French Open.

BZI: Lastly, what is your message to your many Japanese fans?

Gade: From the bottom of my heart, thank you!  I have always loved being here.  I appreciated Japan even more year after year.  This is my favourite place in Asia.  This is one of the few places I can actually live in Asia.  I enjoyed playing in Tokyo and I hope I can someday come back.

It is premature to pay tribute to a sportsman like the great Peter Gade but the Japanese audience will always remember Peter as one of the most exciting players, as well as among the fairest, most respectful – and not to mention very good-looking from the inside-out – that badminton is honoured to have.

All the best Peter!

Peter Gade has been Europe’s best player for the past decade. He’s won 5 BWF World Championship medals (1 silver and 4 bronze), he is 5 times European Champion and 10 times Danish Champion. He is married with 2 children. He is the Special Ambassador for the worldwide charity foundation Solibad – Badminton without Borders as well as the Danish foundation Red Barnet.

About Emzi Regala