IF KIRSTY Gilmour had any lingering doubts about the wisdom of withdrawing from the GB Badminton programme earlier this month, they surely evaporated days after that decision when she won the Swedish Masters.
At 20, she has a long career ahead of her and hopes to be involved at UK level in time to take part in the next Olympic Games. This year, however, is all about the Commonwealth Games and, by staying home in Scotland, she is giving herself the best possible chance of contending for medals.
Based at the National Badminton Academy in Glasgow, Gilmour is close to friends and family and, crucially, can work regularly with doubles partner Imogen Bankier, who left the GB programme soon after London 2012. Gilmour is home, she’s happy, and she has complete confidence in the coaches and support services.
“Here there’s just a short commute every day and there’s all the facilities I could possibly have,” she says after a morning’s training session at Scotstoun. “The support system from the sportscotland Institute of Sport is second to none.
“I think it was a good decision. With the support I get from sportscotland and Badminton Scotland, it’s a really good place to be here at home. I can really thrive here.
“Even little things like having your friends and family ten minutes away – they keep me happy. It’s a good environment to be in.
“Andy Bowman, who is the new assistant coach here, was coached by my dad when he was a player. So he’s been a kind of big-brother influence on my life since I started playing badminton when I was about five.
“And head coach Yvette Yun Luo has been here for four years. I’m just using her for all the knowledge she’s got, because there’s so much of it.”
Gilmour assiduously emphasises the virtues of the Scottish programme rather than saying anything negative about the GB set-up in Milton Keynes. But it is not too difficult to work out the problems that a Scot might find south of the Border in the run-up to Glasgow 2014.
Do a Google search for “GB badminton programme” and you are directed to the Badminton England site, there being an apparent lack of awareness that Britain is made up of more than one constituent element. Perhaps more significantly, the players at Milton Keynes have to work with each other. Only by absenting herself can Gilmour be sure of practising with Bankier, with whom she played at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Gilmour was just 16 then, and essentially in India to learn how to cope with the pressure of being part of a big multi-sport event. She is convinced that, thanks to being part of the team in 2010, she is that much readier to contend for medals this time around. She said: “I think, at the Olympics, the stat is 70 per cent of gold medals are won by people at their second Olympics. The biggest thing I’d been to before Delhi was the UK school games. The scale doesn’t even compare – it’s ridiculous.
“Delhi was amazing, although it could have been a little bit better organised with buses and stuff. Glasgow has taken everything into account and the transport is going to be perfect and the opening ceremony I’m sure is going to be amazing. Just every element will have been thought of and planned.
“I was the youngest ever badminton player to be selected for Scotland. I was the medal support person in Delhi – I got to play against Kenya to save Susan Egelstaff, and it was a really good experience.
“I got to play a doubles with Imogen there against Barbados, who are not famed for their badminton ability.
“When Imogen won her world mixed-doubles silver medal I asked her when she was more nervous – going into the final of the world champs, or going in to play against Barbados. And she said hands down, going into the first game of the Commies to play with me against Barbados. I think it was because of the Commonwealth Games, not me.”
Ranked 22nd in the world, Gilmour will be one of the top seeds for the singles, and believes she and Bankier have a chance in the doubles, too.
“I think so. That would be a dream come true, and I think it’s really within grasping distance,” she added.
“I shouldn’t shy away from that. It’s a real possibility and I’m aiming for it. It will be extremely difficult, even just the singles without adding the doubles, but I’m really looking forward to it and I’m going to do everything in my power to be as prepared as possible.”
In the new world team rankings, Scotland are up to 18th, having been ranked 32 at the start of last year, and are fifth in the Commonwealth, behind Malaysia, Singapore, India and England. But, despite that improvement, Gilmour knows it will be extremely tough to get on the podium in the team competition.
“There’s a very outside chance of a team medal, just because we don’t have the depth. It would be a very outside chance. It would have to be an extremely good draw, and we’d all have to play extremely well.”
Having triumphed in Sweden, Gilmour now moves on to Perth, the location for this weekend’s Yonex Scottish National Championships. She is aiming to win the singles for the third year running, and is top seeded with Bankier in the doubles.