During the Qualification for the 2017 European Mixed Team Championships in Karviná, Czech Republic, Badminton Europe had the privilege of talking to the Danish legend, Peter Gade. The former superstar spoke about his role of the Performance Director for French badminton, about playing, coaching and much more.
1. The French team qualified for the main event of the European Mixed Team Championships. What is your goal for that tournament?
For this format of competition there are many teams that are able to beat each other. Our goal is to try as well as we can at the Europeans in Poland. Last year we showed we are able to do some good stuff at team competitons. I love to play team competitions so I will try to motivate my team to do well and to represent France in the best way possible as a team, fighting and showing great attitude.
2. Do you like this scheme, with five different qualification groups and a main tournament a few months later?
It‘s new. I don’t know if I can answer you yet. Some parts of it I like. That the Czechs can bring some good event here including quite a few people is a good thing. I don’t know about the fact that some teams are already qualified, I think we missed out very close on that. In the season it’s already very busy and this means taking more time out of the calendar, but I have a good feeling after the three days.
3. France has been the most successful European country at the individual competition of the World Junior Championships, reaching two quarterfinals. Do you think France might redeem Denmark as the European badminton superpower?
To redeem Denmark is a very ambitious and high goal, but the reason why I am in France is to try and do that. To try and implement the structure with coaches, with players and everybody altogether, to work long term, not short term. I am just very very happy that we have the potential in young players.
But still we have to know that to bring them from young players to the high elite among adults, there is a big work to be done. However, to be the only European country represented in two quarterfinals – singles and doubles of the World Junior Championships - is an amazing result for France. And on top of that we had a lot of players at the World Juniors in different categories doing well, I was very happy to see that. Some of these young players are already part of INSEP, our national centre, they are very young so it promises good for the future.
4. Do you think YOU might be the key factor that will help the French players to get to the very top?
I don’t know, but it’s my job to be the key factor. To try and use all the means, fun, passion and interest for badminton, try to use that the best way. I think what I do and what I like to do is to put up a structure and a structure can be long lasting, not only about the next 6 months. The way I work is rather to put in things that may produce good players for France for many years. That’s what I call long-term thinking and that can create not only one or two good players, but a culture about badminton. And that’s why I am there. Maybe I can take what I learned from my career and what I learned from Denmark, but I also need to understand the French culture. And then I need to find a good mix and say “this is how we do it”. We need everybody to work together, we cannot go separate ways - only then can we create a culture. It’s never been my motivation to come in just for a short time and go out.
5. How much time do you spend in France? Do you live there?
It’s a half of my time. I have two daughters at home in Denmark so it’s the only way we can do this. Of course, it means a lot of travelling for me, but so far so good! This also means that if I am not there, I need the coaching team to be functioning the right way. It’s also about education of French coaches and putting up a long-lasting culture - also in the coaching team.
6. Do you trust your people in France?
I do! But I won’t lie to you, for the last 1,5 years it’s been tough. If you want to implement things, make changes, it takes a lot of effort. You need to work hard on this for a long time. And if you want to set up a long-time structure, it’s gonna take some time before you see the payback and the results. So people need to be patient, I need to be patient. I have learned a lot for the last 1,5 years, it’s been really learningful for me, I learned a lot about the French culture. I also asked them to change some things and sometimes people´s natural response is not to like that.
7. What in particular do you have in mind? Something from badminton or everyday life?
It could be both. In general, it is about the commitment of being a badminton player. If you wanna take up the fight against the best Europeans, against the best in the world, you need a 100 percent commitment for badminton. On court, outside of the court, in everything you do. They (the players) need to understand that and they need to know what it takes. If we sit down and talk and they say ”I want to be one of the best in Europe“, I say ”Ok, but are you ready to do what it takes to become one of the best in Europe?“. And then when they have to practice hard every day and make sacrifices in different areas on court and off court… you know, you need to do the 100 percent if you want to go higher.
I am there for them, I am there to help, to be there - win or lose - to communicate because it’s gonna be like this! It’s gonna be tough and gonna take some time, but hopefully each one of them will see some progress, that’s my aim. We will see what happens and see if the results come, you never know that.
8. Do you still play a lot yourself?
I still play quite a lot when it is necessary, I do sparring and I still play a little bit in Denmark. If I don’t play almost every day, something is not right.
9. Your player’s career was very rich. Now, almost 4 years after your farewell, when you look back at your career, what do you see?
That is a good question. I am not a guy looking a lot back. As a human being, as a person I never do. I always think ahead knowing this is my job in France and ask myself “What can I do tomorrow to make it better?“. So this about looking back to my career is a bit far away, but I feel good about it, because I gave everything. I made a lot of sacrifice and I love so many things about the game. I also know it was a lot of pressure for me to put on my shoulders for many many years, so it’s tough, but I also like that. I know some players when they finish, they like to stay away from the court, but I don’t. I just like it, I love it. I have no regrets, I love the game of badminton and now I am on a coaching position, so it’s different in some ways but I am happy to still be in touch with it.
10. From all your successes, if you were to pick only one, which one would it be?
I always loved playing Thomas Cup, so I was really happy to see my former compatriots to win the Thomas Cup this year. This tournament has always meant a lot for me. But I also remember the relationship I had with my coaches, remember how we did make some big steps, developed some things, that’s what you remember. I am proud that I made my contribution to how men’s singles should be played, these things you are proud of, but I am not good at looking back. So I am not good at saying “Hey, Peter, you did a good job“, but sometimes when you are reminded with it it’s nice. I still keep in touch with Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei, Taufik and being part of this group is a special thing.
11. Are you still in touch on personal level?
Yeah, we still do some things for Yonex and so on, but also you realise you fight these matches with these players at every tournament, for so many years we did it! Over and over again. It takes a lot to bear the weight of a country’s expectations for many years. All four of us know about that. I am proud I was part of this battle with these guys.
Stay tuned for the second part of Peter Gade's interview. Sunday, we will publish 9 additional questions.
Get more information about the 2017 European Mixed Team Championships by going to the events' page
and read about the results of the Qualification stage here