The role of ambassador for the Badminton World Championships that Glasgow’s Emirates Arena will stage next week is not one that Kirsty Gilmour takes lightly. That would never have been an option for the 23-year-old when she is literally the poster girl for the tournament, mind you.
The Glasgow-based Gilmour is recognised as the best badminton player Scotland has ever produced. Seeded 16 for the tournament, in 2014 she earned a Commonwealth silver at the very Emirates Arena she hopes can attract the same sort of inspirational crowds it did back then.
It is a venue that even simply stepping in to right now could cause Gilmour to take a deep intake of breath. For to do so she must pass 20-foot high billboards of herself advertising the whole jamboree. “I’ve been on posters for tournaments before but nothing quite like being plastered on the front of the Emirates Arena. It feels special,” said Gilmour, who earned silver in both this year’s and last year’s European Championships. “That is one of those things that makes this tournament feel different from any other and the little bit more attention is one more thing I’ll have to contend with. It is a new ball game having a world champs here.
“It seems too cliched because we have spent so much time saying how exciting it is that the world championships are coming to Glasgow and stuff, but now it’s dawning on me it is the world champs...and it’s in Glasgow. That sounds silly, but having just watched the athletics and got so into it, I was thinking ‘that’s a world championships, oh I’m about to compete in a world champs’. It isn’t my first, but it is definitely different and definitely more special having it in Glasgow.”
Gilmour’s ranking of 16 has led to her being given a bye into the second round which will mean she will start her tournament on Wednesday, against either Finnish player Airi Mikkelä or Rituparna Das of India.
That last-32 tie on which home hopes largely rest will follow two days on from fellow Scot – and the country’s leading male player – Kieran Merrilees taking on the onerous task of facing Lin Dan, the multi Olympic and world champion roundly acknowledged as the greatest badminton player of all-time.
If that Monday introduction to the tournament offers plenty to get their teeth into for the Glasgow crowd, Gilmour hopes they will gorge on her sport across the whole of next week.
“Scottish fans are famous for being the best in the world...even if I am biased,” she said. “I really hope that people in Glasgow, and people all over Scotland, develop a new-found appreciation for badminton.
“There will be people coming from China, from Denmark, from all over the world to support their individual players here and I think Glasgow do that so well, collectively and relentlessly.
“They do not discriminate. It’s a case of: ‘oh, you’ve got Scotland on your back, I’m on your side’. I never take that for granted and I can’t wait to feel that again.
“I missed the Scottish Open last November with my knee [with a cartilage issue leading to a four-month lay-off] so I was on the sidelines, seeing the tournament from a different perspective.
“It’ll just be so nice to be on a court, doing my job properly, in front of a home crowd again. I can’t wait.
“People should come and watch it in the flesh. I know there’s going to be some coverage on TV and maybe highlights packages here and there, but I wouldn’t be doing my role as an ambassador properly if I didn’t encourage people to come and see it in the flesh. It’s completely different.
“It’s the atmosphere. The atmosphere that I know Glasgow crowds can create, I want that, because it will make the difference not just to me but to all the other Scottish athletes as well.”