Peter Gade: ‘It still hurts when I lose’

It has been 16 years since PETER HOEG GADE began his journey in international badminton. It has been a career that has seen him win over 30 major titles, including the All England in 1999. And yet, when he fell in the semifinals of the 100th All England to eventual winner Lee Chong Wei, he was nearly in tears. It is this burning ambition to excel that makes this 33-year-old one of the greats of the modern game.
But Gade is not just an excellent athlete; he is an outstanding spokesman for the sport. He never lets his match fortunes dictate his post-match commitments, and he takes every question seriously. An exclusive with Dev S Sukumar at the recently-concluded All England:

You won the All England 11 years ago. How has the game evolved in the last decade?
For sure it has evolved like any other sport. You will see players getting faster, more explosive, more stamina… I think in the men’s singles the impressive thing is, every player at the top is so complete. You look at Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, and the players just behind, like myself. It’s a matter of being as complete as possible. You’re not only good at one thing, you’re good at everything. So that’s the difference.

You have been consistently in the top-5 since 1998. How do you keep up?
Yeah, I’m proud of that. But I want to do well, you know. It’s not enough for me just to be part of it. Hopefully in the last two years of my career, I can win one of the big ones. I have to work harder than ever. It’s also part of my motivation, you know. If I can keep up physically, I know that tactically and technically I’m among the best in the world. Physically I have to work really hard and I do. I have to keep pushing if I have to beat Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei.

You’ve accomplished so much… does it still hurt to lose?
Of course. If it didn’t hurt to lose, I wouldn’t be here. But of course when I look at the tournament and I know I’ve done well, and the match (against Taufik in the quarters) was a great memory for me… but my aim is to get closer to Lin Dan, and I hope to continue what I’m doing because I’m on the right track. And there will be an award for me at some point, I believe that.

Thoughts on the 100th All England?
The All England is special because of its history. It’s the most classic. Personally, the French Open for me is as big an experience because of the spectators, but the All England is about history. A lot of great players have participated and won, so it’s a nice feeling. It’s like one of the homes of badminton. And the 100th makes it even more special.

How important are history and tradition to you, considering you come from a country with a rich badminton culture?
Of course it matters. It matters that Danish players have done well. I’ve also won the All England, it was 10 years ago… and I’m part of it, and I’m proud of that. Hopefully we’ll have more Danish players in the future. It’s a very important tournament for Danish players to do well in.

The year Gopichand won the All England, you lost a great match to him in the semis…
I don’t know how I lost that match! That’s the only thing… because if I won it, I had a good chance of winning the All England again. Gopi played a fantastic tournament, all credit to him. He took his chance and won the final. And it was very good for badminton, that we got an Indian champion.

You were at the World Championships in India last year. What was the experience like?
I enjoyed being in India, but I felt India got the worlds four or five years too soon. There were not too many spectators. That was a shame. We all expected a lot of spectators, because it was in India. It was one of the world championships with the fewest spectators, ever.

What’s the difference between Taufik and Lin Dan?
It’s another kind of game. Against Taufik both of us like to attack; against Lin Dan it’s more physical. Taufik’s attack is the best in the world. But I knew that if I could move him around, I could get openings. Lin Dan is always keeping the pace all the way through. It’s very difficult to find openings in him.

You have seen three different scoring systems in your career. Your opinion on them?
I think it’s positive for the game. If you see the men’s singles, even though you have Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei as the favourites here, they do lose. They don’t lose often, but they do lose. That’s because of the system, you know. The top 15 can beat the others in the top ten, and that’s very important.

Growing up, who were you most influenced by?
I was more influenced by Asian players dominating at the time. Heryanto Arbi was a big idol of mine when I was young. It’s another thing when you’re in the top yourself. It’s more like they’re an inspiration. So I guess I’ve taken something from a lot of players.

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About badmintonmania

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the Indian in Thoreau's Walden who makes cane baskets and is surprised nobody wants them. A. was talking about discipline when she said: "But Dev, if you want to move ahead in life, you'll have to be like that," and she may as well have defined everything else for me. I've played the low percentage game for too long to believe there's anything in it but the romance; the odds keep getting jacked up higher and higher; and you may be a good Idealist but a worse Fool.
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