IN DELHI four years ago, Kirsty Gilmour was a rookie 17-year-old taken along for the ride. In Glasgow in two months’ time, the world No 18 will have medals firmly on her mind as she lines up as one of Team Scotland’s potential stand-out stars at the Commonwealth Games.
Pressure will be piled on her shoulders, but at yesterday’s launch of Scotland’s badminton team of ten at the Games’ venue of The Emirates Arena, the Bothwell youngster was happy to be the focus of attention as part of the build-up process and emphasised her desire to enjoy the unique experience of competing in a multi-sports event on home territory.
Gilmour, currently the third highest women’s singles player in the Commonwealth rankings, has long been guaranteed selection and will be joined in the team by doubles partner Imogen Bankier, Jillie Cooper, Rebekka Findlay, Caitlin Pringle, Kieran Merrilees, Robert Blair, Paul Van Rietvelde, Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh.
The team Championship starts on the first day of competitive action at the Games – 24 July – with the individual events getting underway from 29 July. Scotland will be gunning for podium slots throughout, with Gilmour in the singles and Bankier and Blair in the mixed doubles and also the main hopes in the individual events.
Gilmour is relishing the challenge. “When I was in the team in Delhi it was for sheer experience. This time round it is completely different,” she admitted. “But I’m getting used to the expectation. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it and I like to think that I thrive on pressure.
“I got a taste of what it will be like here at The Emirates Arena when I reached the final of the Scottish International back in November. The crowd was fantastic. At the Games there will be three or four thousand more and also so many others watching on TV.”
There is another reason Gilmour is desperate to do well in Glasgow. She wants to use it as the perfect stepping stone on the way to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. “I’ve competed in UK School Games, the Youth Commonwealth Games and a Commonwealth Games. Glasgow 2014 comes first and then it will be on to Rio,” she said.
Earlier this year, Gilmour raised a few eyebrows when she dropped out of the GB programme down in Milton Keynes and decided to train purely in Scotland under National coach, Yvette Yun Luo.
“If I’m invited, I might go back after the Games,” she said. “But being based in Scotland won’t make any difference to my Olympic ambitions. It’s all about my world ranking.”
Gilmour is following in family footsteps – her uncle David played for Scotland in 1994 and 1998 – and she is not the only one continuing a genetic badminton line in Commonwealth Games competition this year. Team-mate Caitlin Pringle’s father, Iain, competed at Scotland’s last home Games in Edinburgh in 1986 – seven years before his daughter was born.
Pringle, a tall and talented doubles player, and Rebekka Findlay have only been selected for the team event – but the hope is that they might be given the thumbs-up to also compete in the individuals.
At 32, Robert Blair is the senior member of the team and, as a former world championship medallist and 2004 Olympian, he brings a wealth of experience. Imogen Bankier is also a former world championship medallist and she competed for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics.
Making the announcement, Team Scotland Chef de Mission, Jon Doig, said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to the athletes who have been selected for Team Scotland. Throughout the highly competitive selection period, they have demonstrated their individual and team talents, most noticeably their success at the 2013 World Mixed Team Championships.”
Badminton Scotland chief executive Anne Smillie added: “This will be our biggest squad since winning the team bronze at Manchester 2002. I am confident that we have the right blend of youth and experience to make an impact at Glasgow 2014 in both the team and individual events, especially with a passionate home crowd behind us.”
Scotland certainly has a proud badminton record in the Games, winning team bronze in Manchester 2002 and the most recent medal was a bronze for Susan Egelstaff in the women’s singles at Melbourne 2002.
Harking back again to 1986, and that really was memorable for the home team. Dan Travers and Billy Gilliland won gold in the men’s doubles and Gilliland and Christine Heatly, who is now Mrs Black and the badminton team manager for Glasgow, claimed a bronze in the mixed doubles.
The home crowd definitely helped spur the Scots to victory at Meadowbank all these years ago and the hope is that it will be the same in Glasgow come July.