A BRACE of comfortable wins and the younger players blooded for tougher tests ahead. It was a highly satisfying first day for Scotland’s badminton players at The Emirates Arena.
In the morning, a plucky team from the Seychelles was dispatched 5-0 and it was a similar whitewash against Guernsey. Now Group C is all set up for a top of the table decider this evening between the fifth seeded home team and the doughty No 6 seeds, New Zealand.
Rebekka Findlay, the youngest player in the Scottish squad, gained her first cap against the Seychelles in the women’s singles and she added another in the doubles with Jillie Cooper against Guernsey and couldn’t have had a more enjoyable baptism.
“It was unbelievable, the support from the crowd was just incredible,” said the Erskine 20-year-old following her 21-7, 21-11 singles win over Allisen Camille. “I’m always nervous before a big match and today was no different.
”But we had all been given a boost by going to the Opening Ceremony. We left after the parade but it was just such a buzz. I had lots of family and friends here to watch and it’s been a super day.”
It certainly went exactly to the script for the Scots. Kirsty Gilmour, who will be No 2 seed in the individual events in women’s singles, the vastly experienced Robert Blair and Paul Van Rietvelde were rested against the Seychelles.
They came in for the match against Guernsey and eased into the action. Gilmour beat Elena Johnson 21-4, 21-7 and then Blair and Van Rietvelde, both from Longniddry, joined forces to defeat Daniel Penney and Stuart Hardy 21-3, 21-7 in the men’s doubles.
“It’s always nice to get the first match under the belt,” admitted 20-year-old Gilmour, who was just a raw teenager when she competed for Team Scotland in New Delhi four years ago.
“This time everything is so different. In Delhi, there was absolutely no expectations on my shoulders. It is the exact opposite here in Glasgow.”
Coping with the pressure over the 11 days of badminton competition is going to be tough but she has gained some insight from team colleague and women’s doubles partner, Imogen Bankier.
Silver medallists from the 2011 World Championships, Bankier and Chris Adcock went into the London 2012 Olympics with high hopes but failed to deliver. “I’ve listened to Imogen,” said Gilmour.
“She says the main thing is to enjoy the experience. Looking back, she thinks they went into London with too high expectations. I’ve learned from what she went through.”
As to mounting the podium, that is something that has been banished from her thoughts. “It’s difficult not to think about what it would be like if it all goes swimmingly,” she admitted. “But I’m not even contemplating such an outcome.
“All I know that Delhi was the best two and a half weeks of my life and, even after just a couple of days, I know that Glasgow is going to be even better.”
Edinburgh’s Martin Campbell was Scotland’s most prolific winner on day one. He enjoyed two wins against the Seychelles and another against Guernsey.
He also had the honour of starting the shuttlecock action for Scotland alongside mixed partner Cooper. He described the experience as “the best match of my life.”
It wasn’t so much the 21-11, 21-15 scoreline that impressed him as the atmosphere in the Arena.
“The crowd is definitely going to give a huge lift to all the Scots,” suggested Campbell, who also won the men’s doubles with Patrick MacHugh against the Seychelles and another mixed point with Cooper against Guernsey.
“We weren’t too late to bed after the Opening Ceremony but the adrenaline was flowing and it was great to play in front of such a huge support on the first morning.”
But the big test comes against the Kiwis, and they also enjoyed two 5-0 wins on day one. Only the teams that top each of the six groups is absolutely assured of making it into the quarter-finals. The two best runner-ups complete the final eight.
Kieran Merrilees, Scotland’s singles champion, agreed it was an ideal start to the campaign. “It’s always nice to get the first games under the belt and we’re lucky because we are used to the courts from having played in the Scottish Open,” said the Glasgow man who, as with all his colleagues, won both his matches in straight games.
There were no upsets in the other groups, with the four top seeds – Malaysia, England, India and Singapore – all seemingly set to cruise through to tomorrow’s quarter-finals.
Scotland’s only medal in the team event came with a bronze at Manchester 2002. A win over New Zealand is required to keep hopes alive of winning another possible gong on Monday. And that would be the perfect build-up for the six days of the individual events.