On June 20, 1950, Gillian Perrin was born in London, England but resided in the county of Surrey during her childhood. Very early on in her career, Gillian showed signs of flourishing into an elite player. Only at 12 and half years old, she won the English National U15 Junior Championships which were known as the All England Junior Championships at that time. Two years later, she won both the U15 and U18 Junior titles.
Finished with conquering the national junior tournaments, Perrin moved on to challenge herself on the international stage. She acquired her first international title at the 1967 Scottish Open in Women’s Doubles with Jennifer Horton. Another 2 years later, Perrin won her first All England title in 1969 with Roger Mills in Mixed Doubles. She was only 18 years old. The following year, Perrin reached for even higher by earning herself a spot in the finals of all 3 events at the All England Championships. Unfortunately, she lost all 3 finals and ended up leaving with a triple crown of silver medals.
In that same year, Gillian Perrin married Mike Gilks and took his surname. From then on, she would compete as Gillian Gilks.
By 1972, Gilks established herself as a force to be reckoned with. At the Olympic Games Demonstration Event in Munich, she lost to Noriko Nakayama of Japan in the semi final round of the Women’s Singles with the very tight scores of 3-11, 11-8, 9-11. Gilks avenged her loss in the
Mixed Doubles by beating the very same Japanese player on her way to the final round. In the final, Gilks and Derek Talbot defeated Svend Pri and Ulla Strand of Denmark to secure the gold medal.
At the 1973 All England, Gilks was a triple finalist again. This time she ensured that she would not repeat the history of 1970 and leave empty handed without a title. That year, Gilks walked away with another All England title in Mixed Doubles. In 1974, she achieved her first golden hat trick with gold in all three events at the Commonwealth Games. She beat Margaret Beck in the Women’s Singles and then paired up with her to win Women’s Doubles. Her third gold was in Mixed Doubles with Derek Talbot.
Despite her All England success, Gilks had to wait until 1976 to win a title in Women’s Singles. She first entered the competition in 1965 but did not manage to get through the first round until 1970. Gilks had previously reached the final round of Women’s Singles for 3 consecutive years but she did not win a title until 1976. When Gilks finally grabbed the Women’s Singles title, she won the final round decisively against Margaret Lockwood (formerly Beck) with the scores of 11-0, 11-3. For her other events, Gilks partnered up with Susan Whetnall for the Women’s Doubles and Derek Talbot for the Mixed Doubles. Her partnerships were successful and she emerged with a full crown of gold medals. Gilks became the first player to have triple crowned at the All England since Tonny Ahm in 1952. There has yet to be another player to replicate her feats to this day.
With her amazing results at the All England, Gilks became one of the most successful players in the history of the tournament with 11 titles in total in 3 events (2 Women’s Singles, 3 Women’s Doubles, 6 Mixed Doubles) from 1969 to 1984. At the height of her career, it only took Gilks 20 minutes to defeat Saori Kondo of Japan in the final round and secure the 1978 All England Women’s Singles title.
In 1976, right after her All England hat trick, she repeated her feat at the European Championships with another three gold medals: Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles with Susan Whetnall, and Mixed Doubles with Derek Talbot.
Aside from her domination at the All England, Gilks was also known as the Queen of the Dutch Open with no less than 27 titles. Out of these 27 titles, she won 5 consecutive Women’s Singles titles from 1975 to 1979. Gilks was also a frequent visitor of the podium at the Scottish Open with 15 titles, including three triple crowns (1971, 1976, 1981).
In 1977, Gilks competed at the first ever World Championships in Sweden. She was a double finalist but ended up losing her Women’s Singles to Lene Køppen. Pairing up with her long-time Mixed Doubles partner, Derek Talbot, Gilks lost again to Køppen and Steen Skovgaard. Gilks finished with 2 silver medals.
Gilks’ two silver medals in 1977 would be her best result at the World Championships. She was absent from the 1980 Championships and decided to quit Women’s Singles to concentrate on the double events. At the 1983 World Championships, Gilks won a bronze medal in Women’s Doubles with Gillian Clark. Gilks would experience a World Championship medal drought until 1987 when she clinched a bronze medal with Martin Dew in Mixed Doubles.
Gilks made up for her lack of a gold medal at the World Championships with an impressive record at the European Championships. Gilks made her first appearance in both doubles finals at the European Championships in 1968 when she was just short of 18 years old but it would take her another 4 years before she won her first European Championships title. Gilks would go on to claim 12 more titles from 1972 to 1986.
Over 3 decades, Gilks dominated the English nationals with 37 titles (26 senior and 11 junior) from 1969 to 1985. In 1978, Gilks easily took the title in Women’s Singles in a mere 11 minutes. Despite her dominance on English soil, Gilks would become involved in a highly-publicized dispute about doubles partnerships with her national federation from 1975 to 1976. This dispute culminated in Gilks’ decision to not to play for the English team at the 1978 Uber Cup and 1978 Commonwealth Games held in Edmonton, Canada. Her dispute with the English federation would continue for years and force her to declare herself unavailable to play for England at the 1981 Uber Cup as well.
Her public dispute with the federation was not the only thing that was highly publicized about Gilks. In 1980, it was publicly noted that Gilks underwent a nasal cosmetic surgery and sported a new hairdo. Both changes were dubbed “the most startling physical transformation ever seen in sport” by her biographer, David Hunn.
When asked about her on court anticipation, Gilks remarked, “In Mixed Doubles, an incredible percentage of shots can be cut off at the net if only you anticipate intelligently and have a go; provided always that your partner is ready to back up when you guess wrong and that you are not over-ambitious if it happens to be an off-day.” It was probably due to her conservative mindset that she was still able to be very efficient on the rare days that she was not on her game. Gilks was famous for her tight play and elegant backhand. Especially in Women’s Singles, she would utilize her height and long reach to save shots and efficiently end the rally with a quick smash down the line. The badminton expert, Pat Davis, once wrote that there “Never has there been a more talented all-rounder” in regards to Gilks in 1987.
During Gilks’ badminton career, a 139-page biography about her was published in the United Kingdom in 1981. Four years later, Gilks was nearly forced into retirement when she ruptured her Achilles tendon. She made a miraculous recovery and won the Scandinavian Open Mixed Doubles just 142 days after the rupture. Gilks played for another 3 years before officially retiring from badminton in 1988.
Gilks received many awards in recognition of her badminton achievements. She was named Sportsman of the Year twice and BBC Super Star. In 1976, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services in badminton. In 1986, Gilks was awarded the IBF Distinguished Service Award and inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 1999. In April 2014, Gilks was inducted into the Badminton Europe Confederation Hall of Fame, becoming the second player to receive such an honour after Erland Kops.
Gillian Gilks divorced Mike Gilks in 1976. After the divorce, the English legend married her coach, Mike Goodwin. She now lives in Spain with her husband.
1986 – IBF Distinguished Service Award
1999 – IBF Hall of Fame
2014 – Badminton Europe Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
All England 2010 Official Programme
All England 2011 Official Programme
Badminton Europe (Magazine)
Gillian Gilks – A Life of Badminton (David Hunn)
International Badminton – the first 75 years
World Badminton (Magazine)
-- By Yves Lacroix