Gail Emms is best known for representing Great Britain as a badminton player winning medals throughout her career, she most notably won a silver medal at the Olympic games held in Athens in 2004. Gail is currently working for the BBC commentating on the London 2012 Olympic games.
Kim O'Meara caught up with her to find out all about her beloved pal, Rafa, and to hear all about her experiences on Dancing on Ice's Olympic special.
Tell us about your dog - we'd like to know everything about him!
Rafa is a 5 year old Westie. I got him as a present for my 30th birthday. I had a Westie when I was younger and adored the breed. I thought about our house, the size of our garden and so I knew I didn't want a huge dog. I'm also allergic to a lot of hair and Westie's don't moult so everything seemed to be pointing towards getting a Westie.
We really researched as much as we could to find good breeders. We found some so we went to visit and they had a litter of puppies.
(Laughs) My boyfriend said at the time if we're having a Westie I want the biggest boy. His breeder said to us that he was a really good choice. She said he was a lovely boy, not noisy and very loving and she was absolutely true. He's a really big softie and only barks at squirrels!
I'd say I've always been a dog person, I'm allergic to cat hairs so I'd never considered getting a cat, and my life is quite outdoors-y. I love being outdoors whether riding a bike or going for a run and Rafa loves to come with me.
When did your interest in pets/animals begin and how long have you been a pet owner?
We didn't really grow up with a lot of animals in the family. My sister had a hamster, I wasn't a huge fan of small animals because they were so little. We had a Westie when I was around 5 years old but at the time my dad was away a lot and my mum had three small children to cope and my mum felt the dog wasn't getting enough attention so she went to live in a really lovely home with some family friends.
Then when I was around 12-13 years old my parents split up and so my mum decided it would be nice for us to get a dog to help cope with the break-up. So we got a Yorkshire Terrier, who it turned out wasn't actually a Yorkie, but looked like one. Sadly she got cancer of the liver and passed away at 7 years old.
We're currently at the exciting start of the London 2012 Olympics and full of home for our stars as they compete. You retired in 2008 but notably won medals in 2006, 2004 and 2002. What are you most looking forward to about the London event as it rolls out and do you wish you were still competing?
It's a bit of both to be honest! Part of me wishes I was still competing and I'm jealous not to be competing on court because the Olympics is such a great event. The adrenalin rush you get from the crowds cheering us just unreal.
That said I don't miss the travel and training that came with competing. I love the fact that this is a new chapter for me and I'm part of the BBC commentary team for the Olympics which is exciting. I have a two year old now and I can have a glass of wine without worrying about training so this is really a new stage in my life and I'm excited about what's next.
And you recently took part in the Dancing on Ice Olympic special which airs this month. With 6-7 weeks training, it seems like it was a pretty intense and fun experience! Did you expect to enjoy it as much as you did?
(Laughs) Well I went into it thinking 'I'm an athlete, I can do it!' - yeah right, I got such a shock! I like to set myself challenges in life, whether it's running a 10k race or something completely new and I always encourage people to have goals and get out of your comfort zone.
I have to say ice skating turned out to be so far out of my comfort zone it was ridiculous! I can do any sport really, I can pick up a racket and hit a ball, I can get on a bike and go miles, but with ice skating I was falling over and then you add having to do it and dance, have your make up and hair done and all the glitter – but I have to say I was converted by the end. I lost 4kg in 6 weeks and felt such a transformation. I came out of it with a whole new appreciation for ice skating, the training involved what people go through on the show!
Having been involved for so many years, what will the last few months have been like for the athletes taking part?
It would have been like preparing for the biggest exam of your life. Everyone would have had lots of different emotions going through their mind. There would have be excitement of course mixed with panic as they wonder if they had prepared enough and you'll have asked yourself 'have I done as much as I can?' Their heads would have been like a tennis court with thoughts going back and forward.
How did you cope with training and being away from home, Rafa and your family and friends?
I got Rafa when I was still competing and I think one of the best things was coming home to him after training or being away at a competition. He wouldn't care if I'd lost a match or done well, he'd be the same whatever the result.
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but….If Rafa had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask him and what do you think that he would say?
I'd like to ask him if he's okay with my little boy grabbing, wrestling and playing with him, and I think he'd say yes, but just not when I'm asleep or have just woken up.
Many Thanks Gail!
Gail Emms Was Speaking With Kim O'Meara