Official website of Pavel Florian, Czech National Badminton Player

Interview with Tracey Hallam

I had a great opportunity to talk to Tracey during the Romanian International Badminton Chapmionships in March. I hope you will enjoy the interview ...

Tracey Hallam has been one of the Europe´s best women singles players for quite a long time. In 2004 she got through to the quarterfinals of the summer Olympic Games in Athens. There she had one really very good win when she in the eighth-final beat the former European best and very experienced player – Camilla Martin of Denmark, the silver medalist form Sydney 2000. We had the opportunity of speaking to Tracey together with other people from the Czech team at the Romanian International Badminton Championships. We found out that Tracey is a very nice and pleasant woman. She did not hesitate to say YES when we asked her for an interview which we made at the day of her 32nd birthday. According to us  it was very interesting and I think that you will agree.

Before I already made a similar interviews with Kenneth Jonnasen and Simon Archer but this one was a special wish of my coach Radek Votava and a couple of my friends who wanted to know what it is like when a woman, not man, becomes a top athlete./images/T_hallam4.jpg

Hello Tracey, I am Pavel from the Czech Republic. Me and my friends would like to know a little about you and your life. Would you, please, give us a few minutes of your time for an interview?

Yes, why not.

In our opinion and definitely also in the eyes of other people you are a famous badminton player and an athlete who manged to achieve something really big. We would like to know at least a little about you, your career and also your common life. In fact we are interested in who you are.

In Athens in 2004 you got trough the quarterfinal of the Olympic tournament. Was it your best result, you best sports achievement?

Yes, it was. Because I beat Camilla it was. She was an experienced player who played in so many international events and was even used to win them. She was a real top player who played so many big tournaments similar to the Olympics. This victory made my performance in Athens so special. The victory gave me a lot of selfconfidence  and the fact that I won showed me that I am not only able to play well with the world’s best players but also to beat them. It helped me a lot for my future badminton life.

What was it like? How did you feel immediately after the victorious eighth-final match?

When I won I was a bit afraid. When there is a match played at the Olympics you have to go for a conference with the media afterwards. I was afraid of what they were going to ask me, especially the Danish media. I didn’t know what to expect from them. I got to the quarterfinals over their best player. I was saying to myself that I must stay with my feet on the ground and there still was another match I had to play, I knew I had to continue.

What was on your mind after you achieved such a great thing – after reaching the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament?/images/T_hallam5.jpg

Satisfaction. A big satisfaction and I knew I went there to compete and not just to participate. I was there and I reached something and not just lost in the first round and went back home. Those were my first Olympics and before them I played quiet badly. I thought it was the biggest tournament there can ever be and I practised for just getting there, to be able to play. I was afraid I would lose. But suddenly thanks to this result everything started to give sense. Trainings, self-denial, all the hard work …

What does this fulfilled dream mean for you and your next life?

People were telling me that it would help me for my next career. An athlete usually has a programmed life. He gets up regularly, takes breakfast, goes for the training, … An athlete has to be responsible. And people in business want those they employ to be responsible and reliable as well. And so they would tell me that when I am an athlete and what’s more a successful athlete then it will be good for my future job, I will be „a wanted commodity“.

What are you going to or what would you like to do after you finish your active badminton career?

I don’t know at all, maybe I will do coaching. But this is very similar to playing so it may happen that first of all I will start with something completely different.

Are the Olympic Games in Beijing your next goal?

Yes, they are. Now I am getting back after an injury. I ruptured a ligament at the ankle area exactly at the place where it was connected to the bone. I didn’t play for 6 months. I don’t  want to say that there is a good time for an injur but if it ever was to happen then to me it happened in a good time. Or let us say the least inconvenient. If I injured later maybe I would not be able to return in time and I would miss the Olympic games for sure. I fit happened one year earlier I wouldn’t play at the Commonwealth Games where I won.

It is not easy to return. I know where I was and I am not in the shape as before. But I am slowly getting back and everything has been improving.

How did you get on the top level? Why do you think you manager to do it?

I would devide my top career in two periods. The first was the summer of 2000. At that time I was playing tournements like this one in Romania (circuits). There were a lot of players like me, they were on a similar level. We were equal and they weren´t better then me, but I would often lose. At that time I met one coach who told me that he saw big potential in me. So we agreed and we practised hard together during the summer. Then the next season came and I started to win the tournaments./images/T_hallam1.jpg

And then a Chinese coach came to England and we started to practise with him and in the and the Chinese coach Yvette who I have been training with until today. It was very hard. The afternoon sessions were supposed to take 2 hours but what she prepared would last 3. It wasn´t easy but I got used to it and then I was much more fit and thanks to this hard work I had a bigger potential for the play.

The difference between me and other players from our training group was that I was able to cope with the trainings. Lots of them were not strong enough and injuries appeared. But I was kind of compact, I was getting used to the training loads and going slowly higher.

I was lucky couple of times at the tournaments with the draw and I didn´t waste the chances but I used them. I won my matches with equal players and got to play with the bests.

And the way up was also a matter of the mental attitude. The two best Chinese women Zhang Ning and Xie Xinfang – when I played against them I always tried to get in the play, I tried to play with them. Even though they are trained to be able to hit the line even then they will make a mistake. I knew I had to be playing with them, not just giving them easy points. And with this attitude I found out that I can play even with the top Chinese or other Asian players. I never won against those two above mentioned but I played very good matches against them, I was able to keep up with the pace. I always tried to play with them and when it came for the 18:18 score then they were not so strong. Then it was equal. I had to fight and try more and more. And I went higher and higher on this way, with this attitude.

Maybe a short intermission for our talk. What do you think about the cooling down exercises or stretching after the match or a training?

They are for sure very important. After a good result or a good performance it helps you to calm down and it is also important to think about the next day. It has no sense to just go off the court, go to bed, wake up in the morning and then think:“Oh my God, I cannot move at all!“ It is necessary to think about the next performance. Especially with the older people J. I think that if the player does these thing properly then he will be able to perform on the top for maybe 5 years longer.

What do you think, why was it you and not anybody else who got in badminton that far?/images/T_hallam3.jpg

I think the important think is that I always want to win. To win as much as possible and the result will hopefully satisfy me. It is a matter of attitude. I don´t want to be best in England but I want to belong in top 10 of the world. For me it is not enough to be the best in my country but I want to reach as high as possible. If I was the best only at home I wouldn´t be satisfied. I want to challenge myself. I always see a challenge in the game and I want to fight with the bests. And the only way how to get to them is to win the equal matches against players of a similar level as me. If win these matches I will have the chance of playing against the top players. That is one reason why it is so important to use the chance of a good draw in the tournaments.

And this is what I didn´t managed to do then before 2000. I played against the players who were same level as I was at that time but I was losing to them. They weren´t better than me but I just wouldn´t win. I don´t know why it was like that. Maybe I used to get myself under a too big pressure. It wasn´t an easy period of my career.

There is one more question connected with the motivation. What do you think about the Asian players who start to play for the European countries? I mean, if you take a look at France, Germany and Holland and from time to time at other states, they sometimes „put“ in their team some of th top Indonesia´s or China´s players such as Mia Audina, Jao Yie, Xu Huaiwen and others.

I personally disagree with this way of getting good players. Although it may seem as a good thing when the level of the game can go higher thanks to such a player it is not always good for the motivation. A participant at the Olympic Games may bring good money for badminton in such a country but it is not so motivating for young players. There is always a spot for two players in events such as Thomas and Uber Cup, the World Championships etc. But then just one of them is for a real national player. For example there were Mia Audina and Jao Yie for a long time playing for Holland – but who of the home players could break through in such a tough competition? I think the way how they do it in Denmark and England when they play with their own players is the right thing.

This politics influences the Olympic Qualification a lot. I would be very sad if England engaged some Asian player who would be better than me and I would consequently miss my place in the Games. But it is possible that some NOC would make anything just to enable such a player to play for their country with the prospect of winning a medal.

While we were talking Tracey´s coach Yvette appeared for a few seconds and so we asked her what she thinks about Tracey. And she would say: „Tracey? She´s useless :-)“

/images/T_hallam2.jpg Tracey, would you please tell us a few words about your coach and what she´s like?

She is very good and I like her. The Chinese methods are hard – the period of working with her is the second part of my career. She brought me to the edge of my limits and she also helped me to get on today´s level.

Sometimes it was really very hard, it was maybe even beyond my possibilities. It might not be good in a certain point of view when the body is so tired and isn´t gaining anything in fact but then when I am on court I am able to cope with nearly any situation. Because I know that I was able to do the hard stuff at the training then I know I will be able to get through this on court as well.

It is not only your results that are admirable but, and I hope we will not offend you now, it is also the interest and enthusiasm for the game at your age. You are 32 today so Happy Birthday. At that time we gave Tracey a small present, a ceramic model of a badminton shuttlecock and she was pleased J. Many people of your age already start thein own families. How is it with you? What has kept you with the sport for so long?

I want to win. When I once start coming for the training and will feel tired or injurie will start to appear more often then maybe I will start thinking of ending my player´s career. But now I still want to try and reach my goals. I like the game, badminton. If I wouldn´t then I would get a job and do something completely different. I like the hard trainings, travelling. It is difficult sometimes when the results aren´t so good but when just one success comes then I say to myself that it all is worth doing. 

How does you common week day look like?

I live in Milton Keynes from Monday to Friday where I practise with the national team. We always have a badminton practise in the morning and three times strength training with sometimes one more hour of badminton. On other days we have either running or cycling. And of course we have add other strokes practises and physical trainings.

When there are no tournaments I go to my family at the weekends.

We would like to know your opinion on one more thing. Why do you think there are in England, or let´s say in whole Britain so few top singles players? Because as far as I know you are the only one in past years who achieved something like the quarterfinal of the olympics./images/T_hallam6.jpg

For singles you need a strong mental attitude and the training is not so pleasant because the player has to cope with everything just on his own. Doubles are more of a social event and two will cope with a difficult situation more easily. Some single players in England are not ready to work so hard as they would need, they are unable to give everything. I gave and was always trying to give everything to badminton. If I ended up my career tomorrow then I wouldn´t regret anything. There aren´t just so many singles players who would be willing to give everything they could.

And nowadays you cannot just travel to a foreign country and play a tournament. Even this one is quite strong. There aren´t just players from Europe here also Asians – Japanese, Indonesians. So what´s more, in England the players see that the success comes in pairs so they see a better future in them. The doubles training is also not so hard, especially mentally. If the players can choose then singles are not that good for them. I don´t know what the future of English badminton will be like because without at least one single it´s not possible to win Thomas or Uber Cup.

Dear Tracey, thank you very much for this interview. We wish you good luck. It was very nice speaking to you.

It was a pleasure. Thank you.

15. 6. 2007

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