The BEC ´Women in the Spotlight´ September edition features Gitte Sommer (DEN), winner of the BEC Senior Player of the Year Award (2015). Gitte resides in Ringsted, Denmark with her family. It was her sister who lured her into badminton and since then badminton has always been a part of her! To top that, both her teenage daughters are also badminton players.
Badminton Europe (BEC) spoke to Gitte about her badminton journey and the different experiences she gained through badminton.
BEC: What is your profession and how does badminton fit into your daily routine?
I am a trained physiotherapist and work as a sales consultant in selling supportive medical products. My job in sales has flexible hours and with the right scheduling I can fit in both family, job and badminton but still I find that 24 hours is never really enough.
BEC: You competed in several international tournaments in the 90´s. What have been your best and most memorable memories then?
I was absolutely not among the best back then but still had the opportunity to try playing at a few international tournaments. Playing at the Wembley Arena and in Brimingham at the All England were two of the highlights of my badminton memories back then. I do not remember that much from the matches themselves. I won a couple of them in the main draw, but also experienced losing to some lower ranked Koreans. Off court, the best of all was definitely the atmosphere amongst the Danes. It has always been fun and exciting to spend these trips with them.
Gitte Sommer in action in 1981 and 1996
BEC: How has the transition been like for you from being a competitive player to settling down after your retirement from the elite scene?
I have never only been focusing on badminton because I chose to study and work afterwards. I would therefore not call myself a top-elite player but the transition had been pretty smooth and gradual. It was not a sudden ‘stop’ from one day to the other as I started to play fewer tournaments and slowly retired from the elite scene.
Gitte Sommer and BEC Vice President, Andrey Antropov at the 4th BEC Awards Gala
BEC: In April during the 4th BEC Awards Gala in Podčetrtek (SLO), you were awarded the winner of the first BEC European Senior Player of the Year Award. Tell us how you feel about winning the award?
When I first heard about the nomination, it was with a smile on the lips but rather quickly it turned into a sense of pride. One thing is, that there are things that I, as a private person want and wish to achieve both privately in my career and with my sport. But when someone else notices that I have put an effort into it then it is difficult not to feel proud and honored. When I found out that I actually won the award, it was an incredible feeling. This feeling was double folded when I attended the BEC Awards Gala evening together with the other award winners almost five months ago.
BEC: In less than two weeks´ time, you will be again heading to Podčetrtek but this time to compete at the BEC European Senior Championships (18-24 Sept 2016). How is your preparation getting along?
I am very excited to return to Podčetrtek to play in the European Senior Championships. I did not make it when the tournament was in Portugal in 2014 due to an injury and I had to send my apologies two hours before the plane took off. During this summer, I have been taking some time off from badminton and have been running and biking instead. So far, the training is going great – no additional shortcomings have occurred. A couple of chronically inflamed Achilles tendons are unfortunately limiting how much I can practice. I am trying to be varied in my way of training so that my body can keep up with the training intensity which results in a mix of running, biking and practice on court.
Gitte Sommer and Anne Birgitte Nielsen at the 2015 BWF World Senior Championships
BEC: You won 3 golds at the BWF World Senior Championships in Sweden last year. How does it feel to be winning in competitive badminton again?
The World Senior Championships in Sweden last year was of course an amazing experience. I succeeded in winning both women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. With three matches a day, the last four days of the tournament got very challenging both mentally and physically. I was however a little lucky at the World Championships in Sweden as my sister suprised me by bringing my daughters and my niece to be my cheerleaders at the tournament during the quarter finals.They told me that they will stay until the finals and therefore I had no choice but to win the upcoming matches.. These victories would not be possible without my partners Bo Sørensen and Anne Birgitte Nielsen. They are especially great at getting the best out of me.
BEC: Which woman within badminton do you currently admire the most and why?
I can say without a doubt: Tonny Holst-Christensen – my ‘badminton mama’ (former top-player), who taught me to play when I first started badminton and has been following my progress through the years. Tonny was always ready to teach – and still is. I still remember the first time I was playing in the final at the Regional Championships of Zealand(Sjællandsmesterskaberne) as an under 11-player. Tonny was with me for an hour in local hall and made sure my strokes were perfect before we drove to the final. Even after she stopped being my coach, she still knew what I was up to and I am lucky to still be in touch with her today.
BEC: What are your advices or tips for all the ladies who are interested to play badminton despite having to juggle between their work, family and other commitments?
My advice is to be aware of what is important to oneself. If it is important enough, one will figure out to prioritize it. To me it is important to play badminton – it provides me with the freedom where I can unfold physically and last but not least, gain several social experiences and amazing friendships. That is why I find the time for it and it will be at the expense of something else but it is worth it!
To read the other ´Women in the Spotlight´ interviews, click here
To follow Gitte Sommer´s 2016 European Senior Championships matches, click here
Photos by Badminton Europe and Gitte Sommer.