She openly admits she might be a bit crazy for returning to the badminton court but former world champion Gail Emms could not turn down the chance to unite with friends old and new on one of her favourite stomping grounds.
The 36-year-old makes a return to the game this weekend for the English National Badminton Championships in Milton Keynes, five-and-a-half years after retiring following a quarter-final appearance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Emms, who won silver in the mixed doubles with Nathan Robertson at the 2004 Athens Olympics before taking the world title two years later, will compete in the ladies and mixed doubles.
She was coaxed back onto the court by her ladies partner and long-term friend Ella Tripp to mark 20 years since they first played together at the tournament.
And while admitting her fitness may be not what it once was, Hitchin-born Emms is relishing being back on the big stage.
“We worked out that it was actually 20 years since we first played together in the English National Championships,” said Emms, who will also partner current England international and 2013 finalist Marcus Ellis in the mixed doubles.
“I’m not sure if it’s crazy or stupid or whatever you want to call it, but for one weekend only – I say weekend, it might only last one day – I’m going to be back on a badminton court playing one of my favourite tournaments.
“I’m really looking forward to the ladies and the mixed doubles but I hope Marcus realises that he has got a lot of running to do.
“If I get to a final I’ll be very, very shocked and I think a lot of other people would be too.
“Badminton is such a fitness-based sport and I keep fit, I go jogging, I play netball and do lots of other fitness but when you get onto a badminton court my head and legs aren’t quite in tandem.
“After one point I’m breathing very, very hard and then I realise I have to play another one.”
Emms will head into the weekend unseeded in both events, although with nine titles between herself and Tripp and six doubles titles herself, the mother-of-two will be a name to look out for.
And while her return has caught the headlines, Emms herself believes there should be even more occasions for former players to come back and offer their expertise.
“I forgot that this might be a bit of big deal to some people, even around my mum’s badminton club they were talking about me playing,” she added.
“I think it’s great that we’ve got a bit more interest in the Nationals, we should have more of us oldies playing, I’d love to have more tournaments full of ex-internationals.
“We’ve still got some that are still good but they’re not playing. If we can bring those guys back it would be great experience for the younger guys to play them and give the Nationals a bit of a boost.”
© Sportsbeat 2014