Nora Gardner started playing badminton at Gable Hall School in Corringham, England, when she was 12 years old. The young Englishwoman first started collecting titles at the 1971 English National Junior Championships, where she triumphed in both Singles and Women's Doubles. A year later, she achieved a Triple Crown.
The tall blonde earned her first international titles at the Scottish Open and Portugal International in 1972 and 1973. She quickly moved to higher grounds when she was picked to join the English team at the 1974 Commonwealth Games held in New Zealand. At the Commonwealth Games, Perry and the late Paul Whetnall reached the finals of the mixed doubles Individual event but had to settle for the silver medal when Perry’s partner got injured in the semi-finals and the duo had to give a walkover to compatriots, Derek Talbot and Gillian Gilks.
Perry quickly added more titles to her repertoire at the 1975 All England Championships. Despite being unseeded with Elliot Stuart, they tore through the competition and upset the Indonesian favorites on their way to victory. With her first All England title in mixed doubles, the legend of Nora Perry had been born.
Honors flourished for Nora Perry in the next decade with over 75 international titles in individual competition. On the Grand Prix Circuit, the Danish Open was to become her most successful tournament with 10 titles won. The All England Championships, Swedish Open and Portugal International were not to be forgotten with 8 titles each and the Canadian Open with 7 titles. Nora Perry’s talent and versatility was particularly displayed at the All England Championships with six titles in mixed doubles (1975, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1985) with no less than four different partners!
Nora Perry also established her domination on the European scene with titles in both women's and mixed doubles events at the 1978 and 1980 European Championships. In the 1978 European Championships, she contributed to England’s gold medal in the team event. She was the author of the same feat at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, with gold medals in women's doubles with Ann Statt, mixed doubles with Mike Tredgett and the team event for Team England.
Nora Perry had a similar success story at the World Championships. At the very first edition of the event, she won 2 bronze medals in both doubles events. Better things were to come at the following 1980 World Championships with a women's doubles title with Jane Webster - with whom she went on to win 12 more international titles. In that year's World Championship, Nora Perry and her partners, Jane Webster and Mike Tredgett, were the only non-Indonesian finalists.
In front of a packed Istora Senayan stadium in Jakarta, Nora and Jane easily beat home crowd favorites Verawaty Wiharjo and Imelda Wiguna in women's doubles but was unable to replicate her success with Tredgett in the mixed doubles against Christian Hadinata and Imelda Wiguna whom Perry defeated earlier to take the World Championship women's doubles crown. That defeat in mixed doubles would be remedied at the following World Championships in 1983.
In that tournament, she partnered Thomas Kihlström of Sweden whom was said to be the oldest player of the tournament. They triumphed in the final, beating the Danish duo of Steen Fladberg and Pia Nielsen.
To this day, Perry remains the only British player to have won two World Championships titles. With two gold medals, two silver and two bronze, she holds the record of the most World Championships medals won by a British player.
Just weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Gemma, Perry was back on the court to represent her home country at the 1984 Uber Cup. At this prestigious team tournament, she greatly contributed to one of England’s only two silver medals in Uber Cup competition. Unfortunately, in the final her team was whitewashed by China who clinched their first Uber Cup title in history.
On top of her international success, Perry had 15 national titles to her name. Five titles were from the junior level, and 10 from the senior circuit. Out of her 6 senior mixed doubles titles, Perry held the national title for 5 years consecutively from 1977 to 1981 with her long-time partner, Mike Tredgett.
Nora Perry won more than 30 international titles in women’s doubles, 13 of them with Jane Webster. Perry recalls the 1982 Japan Open as the “hardest one to win to the very high standard of the local Japanese pairs”.
With over 42 titles in mixed doubles alone, Nora Perry and her net play is regarded as one of the very best in the history of the game. Years later, Nora shared her secret to success. “Even at the net, I use a lot of deception. To that end, I do a lot of wrist-roll exercises so I can now hold shots and play fast attacking lobs and clears as well as split second deflections," confided the tall blonde.
Her net play was not her sole lethal weapon. Her trademark low-serve was devastating in both precision and deception. Her net-skimming and disguised flicks could neutralize the fiercest of attacking play. In women's doubles, she would also favour the net. Despite her height, her quick footwork enabled her to hunt down and annihilate any shuttlecock that appeared within her impressive reach.
Her technical skills were not Perry’s only asset to her game. Very communicative, Perry would easily transmit her will to win to her various partners and her strong personality on court made her a very demanding partner. Always hunting for success, she had the ability to elevate the game of anyone completing a duo with her.
After her playing career, Nora Perry continued to contribute to her sport. She first took up coaching for England at the 1990 Uber Cup campaign and then acted as a selector for the English Badminton Association from 1989 to 1991.
In her personal life, Nora married Joe Perry in 1977. They had two children, Gemma and Lee.
At the height of her career, Queen Elizabeth II honoured Nora Perry with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) award for services to badminton in 1984. In 1999, she was inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame.
Nora Perry was elected in 2009 to the Badminton World Federation Council and has actively participated in the creation of the BWF Women in Badminton Commission. She was elected Vice President of Badminton England in 2014 and is currently in charge of the Badminton Development Programme at the Davenant Foundation School in Essex, England.
1984 – Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)
1986 – Badminton Writer’s Association (BWA) Player of the Year
1999 – IBF Hall of Fame
2016 – Badminton Europe Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
All England 2009 Official Programme
Badminton Handbook (Bernd-Volker Brahms)
Davenant Foundation School
Encyclopaedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Guinness Book of Badminton (Pat Davis)
International Badminton – the first 75 years
-- By Yves Lacroix