Glasgow 2014 will be the third time that Scotland has hosted the Commonwealth Games. For Edinburgh’s Christine Black, recently named the Scottish team manager for badminton, it will complete a remarkable hat-trick.
At the 1970 Games in Edinburgh, a teenage Christine Heatly was a pupil at George Watson’s Ladies’ College and a promising badminton player. But she made sure she got a close up view of the action by working as a volunteer scorer around the Meadowbank courts.
Sixteen years later and she was at the height of her playing powers. The Games returned to Edinburgh and this time she was one of the stars as she mounted the podium alongside Billy Gilliland and collected a bronze medal for Scotland in the mixed doubles.
Married to Olympic hammer thrower, Chris Black, her connection with the Games has continued throughout every decade. In 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, Christine was an assistant coach to Dan Travers. In Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006, she was the team manager.
“It’s amazing and a great honour to be asked to be team manager for a third time,” said Heatly, who competed in the 1982 Games in Brisbane as well as Edinburgh ’86. “To be in charge at a home Games will be slightly different and it should be a super event.
“The new Emirates Arena is going to be a fantastic venue. The Scottish International Championships were staged there last month and you couldn’t ask for a better stage to promote badminton.
“My role as manager means I will be involved in setting the selection policy and I will go to some of the tournaments in the build-up to the Games. Fortunately, I know all the current players fairly well and I’ll be working in conjunction with the Scottish coaches, Yvette Yun Luo and John Quinn. Another of my tasks will be to organise the clothing.”
Heatly’s first team managers’ meeting is in February and she added: “The Games will be here before we know it. But I think it’s great that it is on the back of the London Olympics. They were such a success and it’s so good that the players have another major focus.”
Glasgow’s Susan Egelstaff, the London 2012 singles player, retired after the Olympics, but Imogen Bankier, who competed for Team GB in mixed doubles, is a real 2014 medal prospect.
The 2011 World Championship silver medalist in mixed doubles has recently returned from the GB National Centre in Milton Keynes to train at Scotstoun in Glasgow. “It’s a real plus for Scotland that Imogen is back training up here,” said Heatly. “It’s terrific that she is totally focused on doing well for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games.”
Edinburgh-born Robert Blair, who competed for Scotland then England and will qualify for Scotland again in 2014, should be a mainstay of the side, while teenager Kirsty Gilmour will be one of the rising stars.
Longniddry’s Paul van Rietvelde, who is training with the GB set-up at Milton Keynes, and Edinburgh’s Jillie Cooper and Scottish singles champion, Kieran Merrilees, should also be key members of the home team line-up.
“It should be a really good team, but badminton is always tough at the Games,” said Heatly. “Kirsty has had a great first half to this season and has broken into the top 50 in the world. In another two years she could be challenging for a medal.”
A Badminton Development Officer in East Lothian, Heatly, who still competes at a high level in Masters events, has been a tireless servant to her sport. One of her current thrusts is to increase the numbers playing in the East Lothian primary schools – and she also works with the county’s performance squads.
The Commonwealth Games have a very special place in her heart and she will be doing her utmost to make sure that the sport stands out as one of the highlights of Glasgow 2014.