Badminton: Susan Egelstaff calls time on ‘amazing’ career
THE end of an era is always tinged with nostalgia but pride and satisfaction were the overwhelming emotions for Susan Egelstaff as she announced her retirement from badminton yesterday.
The six-times Scottish women’s singles champion reached a career high this summer when she competed at the London Olympics and, after a few weeks of contemplation, she has decided that to continue until the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is a road too far.
“Another two years is a long time,” said the 30-year-old. “After my knee surgery last year I had such a hard struggle to make it to the Olympics and I don’t think I really have the motivation to keep going.
“So many people gave me their help and it took so much time and money to get me fit enough for London that it wouldn’t be fair to carry on unless I was able to give 100 per cent.
“I’m also aware that, after the knee problem, there could be related niggles. I wanted to make my own decision to retire, not be forced to do it.”
At this summer’s Olympics, Egelstaff won her opening match in her round robin group and it was only a deciding-game loss in the final match that cost her a place in the last 16. “London was amazing,” she continued. “I had worked so hard to get there and then played really well. It was definitely the best time of my career.”
There have been, however, many highlights in a 12-year international career that included many title victories and two Commonwealth Games bronze medals, one with the Scottish team in 2002 and then the individual in 2006.
Another great memory was the victory in the 2009 Scottish International Championship at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.
Egelstaff competed in three Commonwealth Games, reached a high of No.19 in the world and earned 90 caps. The Glasgow player is certainly not going to walk away from the sport.
She is set to take up an ambassadorial role with Badminton Scotland and she hopes to be involved in some capacity with Glasgow 2014. She is also keen to take up some media work.
“Badminton has given me so much and I would love to still be involved and give something back,” she said. “I had an amazing career. I was a full-time athlete, was paid to train and got to see so many countries. I had so many wonderful experiences.”
A psychology graduate from Stirling University, Egelstaff was one of the first of the lottery generation of Scottish athletes.
With financial backing, she was able to compete on the world circuit and enjoy the back-up scientific facilities provided by Sportscotland and the Scottish Institute of Sport.
“Even during my final year at Mearns Castle High School I was training full-time and badminton has been my way of life since my mid-teens,” she said.
In 2010, the former Miss Hughes married Dylan Egelstaff and she is grateful for all the support she has received from him and her whole family, especially during the trauma of the Olympic qualification period.
“There is a little bit of me that is sad at retiring, but I know it is the right time,” she concluded. “I couldn’t really have asked for much more form my career and I wanted to go out on a high. Now I am looking forward to some new challenges in life.”
As for her successors to the Scottish No.1 title, she has been impressed by 19-year-old Kirsty Gilmour’s start to the season, which consists of wins in the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland. “I just wish there was better strength in depth,” she said. “I was pretty lucky because I had Fiona Sneddon and Rita Yuan Gao as real challengers during my career and it really spurred me on.”
Anne Smillie, Chief Executive of Badminton Scotland, led the tributes to Egelstaff yesterday. “We are sorry to lose Susan from competition but I am sure we won’t be losing her from the sport,” she said. “She has carried the responsibility of being Scotland’s top women’s singles player in tournaments and team events for a long time and has been an inspiration to the crop of young players looking to follow in her footsteps.
“It is a pity she could not extend her career long enough to play in the 2014 Games in her home city and to collect her 100th Scotland cap, but I can fully understand why she feels the time is right to retire now. Everyone at Badminton Scotland joins me in wishing her well. She has been an outstanding servant to Scottish badminton.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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