ENGLISH National women’s singles champion Jill Pittard today announced her retirement from top-class tournament badminton.
Pittard leaves the international game as England’s highest-ranked women’s singles player in the current world rankings at No. 46.
The 32-year-old from Coventry said: “It’s with immediate effect as I feel I have achieved all I can in badminton.
“I am very happy with my achievements and have no regrets, especially having won the Nationals this year – the one title I really wanted but which had, until February 1, eluded me, having lost in three finals.”
The calibration engineer at Land Rover added: “I feel that holding down a full-time job has made my achievements even more special as I don't think anyone else can say they have combined the two together and achieved what I have. Not bad for a hobby and a part-time player.
“I feel that now is the right time to retire as I am not getting any younger and I have had a very good innings, which I am very proud of.
“I am currently No. 1 on the English rankings and the highest England player in women’s singles in the world rankings so it is good to finish at the top of my singles game.
“I have represented England 14 times, the first time in 1999 against China, and played in four Uber Cup teams and one Uber Cup final, two European Championships and two World Championships and I was part of the bronze medal winning team in the Sudirman Cup in Glasgow in 2007.
“In individual tournaments I won the European Badminton Circuit in 2007 and qualified for the European Circuit finals this year. I have reached more than 30 semi-finals in European Circuit tournaments, finalist at the Czech Open 2002, Scottish Open 2004, Toulouse Open 2009 and I have won the Iceland Open 1998, Geneva International 2001, Slovenian Open 2003, Welsh Open 2007 and, most recently, the Portuguese Open 2009.
“I have played in 12 Yonex All England Championships, which is my favourite tournament, my local tournament in fact.”
Pittard saved special mention to the coaches who have helped her throughout her career. “I owe lots of thanks to Clive Ellames, Steve Butler, Andy Wood, Yvette Yun Luo and Mike Adams.
“But the coach I want to thank the most is Lorraine Cole as she has always believed in me and without her help over the years then I would have struggled to compete at the level I did.
“I would also like to thank a couple of training partners who have been a great part of my badminton life and have put up with training with me for many years - Chris Dakin and Carl Goode.
“Finally I would like to thank my sponsor, Head, for their support over the last few years and my local training venue, Esporta Health Club in Coventry for providing me with free training facilities, and my employers Land Rover for allowing me the time to juggle my work with my badminton.”
Looking back on her career she said: “My greatest achievement and memory has to be winning the English National title this year. This was one of my proudest moments as my family and friends were there to witness it. They have been a massive help over the years.
“I kept them on the edge of their seats, which is my style as I can never win anything the easy way (she needed seven match points and had to save two match points before beating three-times champion Elizabeth Cann 21-19 14-21 27-25 in the final). But it was well worth it and a great memory to look back on.
“Obviously i already have a job so i don't need to look for one, not yet anyway!. I want to stay in badminton as I love the sport and I feel I have a lot to offer the youngsters so I do intend to do a bit of coaching in the Coventry area with some of the young, up-and-coming players.
“I also intend to continue playing county badminton until I reach 100 first-team caps – I am on 88 – as no female player has achieved this for Warwickshire, and I will continue to play for my French club in Paris.
“I would also like to take up golf more seriously, try skiing and play a few Racketlon competitions. I have already played one in October and I won it. I will continue to keep fit by going to the gym, which I enjoy, and basically lead a normal life, which will include watching the Sky Blues.
BADMINTON England Chief Executive Adrian Christy paid tribute, saying: "Jill has been an outstanding athlete and finishes her career as a holder of a National title and I know how much she both wanted and deserved that. Everyone at BADMINTON England wishes Jill every success for the future."