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Glasgow 2014: Scottish stars align for badminton

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  • by ANDY HAMPSON
 

Scotland’s top players will take centre stage as badminton helps launch the action at the Commonwealth Games.

Badminton is one of few sports to take place on every day of competition in Glasgow and the host nation will hope to get off to a winning start at the Emirates Arena.

The first five days of action are dedicated to a team event and Scotland are among the first to feature, tackling the Seychelles in their opening Group C match this morning.

They play again against Guernsey later in the day and face New Zealand in their final round-robin match tomorrow.

With Kirsty Gilmour, the world No 17, on hand for the women’s singles rubbers and world championship silver medallists Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair together in mixed doubles, hopes are high.

“It’s obviously not going to be easy, but I’m not sweating yet,” said Andrew Bowman, the assistant coach of Scotland, revealing a quiet confidence in his players.

England should be among the favourites having been drawn against Northern Ireland – their opponents on day one – Mauritius and Jersey in Group F.

Chris Adcock, ranked fifth in the world in mixed doubles with wife Gabby and 13th in men’s doubles with Andy Ellis, spearheads their challenge. Rajiv Ouseph, a former world No 11 in men’s singles, adds weight to the team.

Tomorrow’s fascinating clash against Jersey could prove their toughest encounter. Jersey have three former England internationals in their line-up in Mark Constable, Mariana Agathangelou and Liz Cann and are coached by another in 2004 Olympic silver medallist Nathan Robertson.

“The draw was quite good to us,” said Robertson. “We know the top teams are full of professional players but we have a chance of beating Northern Ireland and Mauritius.

“Second in the group would be a big achievement for Jersey.”

India are without star player Saina Nehwal, individual women’s singles gold medallist four years ago and world No 7, but still boast a strong side and they are expected to ease through Group B, which also contains Kenya, Uganda and Ghana.

Malaysia are not expected to be troubled by Sri Lanka or Barbados in Group A but the absence of world No 1 and all-time great Lee Chong Wei through injury has given rivals belief they are beatable.

“It was almost like a guaranteed point for Malaysia, but now they don’t have him it is better for all the other teams,” said Keet Hou Chew, general manager of the Singapore team, summing up the mood.

Singapore are in Group F with Norfolk Island, South Africa and Jamaica. Wales are in Group D with Australia, Canada and the Falkland Islands.

The medal matches take place on Monday before attention switches to the individual events the following day. Adcock, in both his doubles disciplines, will be one of the leading medal favourites while Lee’s absence will give Ouseph hope of bettering the silver he won in 2010.

For many of the leading players, the world championships in Copenhagen at the end of August are the main aim.

But in terms of widespread publicity there is little to compare outside of the Olympics and the experience of the multi-sport, village accommodation should also prove invaluable.

England doubles player Lauren Smith, 22, said: “Team England is such a great thing to be part of because you feel really well looked after and like one united team. You spot the stars in the food hall and think, ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m in the same competition as this person and that person’. It’s really good.

“The whole experience hasn’t felt real. Now I’m here it’s like, ‘wow, I’m actually at the Commonwealths!’ This is a childhood ambition. It’s something that means so much to me. The whole experience has just been amazing.”

 

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